By Herbert Jacobs
(Excerpted from Schoolmaster of Kings, Herbert Jacobs’s unpublished biography of Donald MacJannet.)
The pupil who got the most newspaper attention was Philip—blue-eyed, flaxen-haired, “the boy with no last name.” Subjected to much kidding by his classmates because of that lack, he was sometimes called Philip of Greece. His mother, the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had married into the Danish royal family, which had no surname. Philip had been raised with four older sisters, so much the center of their attention that his parents felt he needed association with boys of his own age. “Mother, do you think I can get into this?” he asked his mother wistfully when she brought him to the school and he saw a group of boys playing football. “I should think you can,” she replied. By the time she and Donald MacJannet had concluded details of Philip’s admission, the active Philip was already mingling with his future classmates. Princess Alice, Philip’s mother, told MacJannet that while the boy had plenty of originality and spontaneity, “instead of being constantly hushed up he should be working off his boundless energy by practicing games and learning Anglo-Saxon ideas of courage, fair play, and resistance. Philip should develop English characteristics, because his future will be in English-speaking lands, perhaps American, and I want him to learn English well.”
Why the princess didn’t respond
The princess was looking out the window, watching Philip, when MacJannet made some comment, but she did not respond. Later he learned that she had been born deaf, but had learned to read lips in English, German and Greek. Living farther up the St. Cloud slope and walking to school each morning with his governess, Philip usually arrived half an hour early. He cleaned blackboards, straightened furniture, and was always helpful and eager, though he frequently quoted his sisters’ statement that “you shouldn’t slam doors or shout loud,” MacJannet recalled. He always got chairs for visitors, would not let women serve him, carried food from the kitchen but never broke a platter. Besides loving football, he did well enough in his studies to get a silver star and even a gold one, “making great progress in his three years,” MacJannet said. He begged to be allowed to be a boarder and live at the school, but “we can’t afford it,” his mother said. The royal refugee family, in fact, had very little money. Princess Alice had opened a shop in Paris where she sold the artifacts brought with them by other Greek refugees.
At the age of six, when he entered the school in 1927, Philip soon learned more about American sports and presidents than he knew about King George III and cricket. Gregarious and popular, he was a member of the school’s baseball team and lower school football captain.
Since MacJannet believed that physical labor, in moderation, was also good for children, he took part in the gardening, leaf raking and other duties that accompanied the academic life. MacJannet remembers him in charge of the garden hose at watering time, telling each boy firmly just when to take his turn. MacJannet got a turn too, of a different kind, when he approached to take a picture and he and the camera accidentally got a minor soaking. Prince Philip later said of those three years at the MacJannet School that “they were three of the happiest years of my life” (presumably up to the age of nine, when he left). They may, in fact, have been part of the reason why he later sent Prince Charles to school rather than having him tutored, like previous Princes of Wales.
Too much laughter
“Philip was keen, intelligent and responsive,” Mrs. Dorothy Huckle, a teacher at the Elms school, wrote in a letter. “Sometimes he was so boisterous that he had to be “sat on,” she continued. “One day in class something came up to make us all laugh. When I felt that we had laughed enough, I said, ‘Now, that’s enough! Let’s get on with our work.’ Philip continued to laugh, not out of bravado, but for the sheer joy of life. “‘Enough’s enough, Philip,’ I said. ‘Stop it and let’s get on with class.’ My tone of severity astonished another child, who said to me in an awe-struck voice, ‘His uncle and aunt are a king and queen!’” “There was a dead silence, and I was faced by a pack ready to defend their idol. Blue, black, gray, green and brown eyes looked at me with varied expressions— all questioning. Among them was a pair of blue eyes (Philip’s) looking straight into mine with the wisdom of ages behind them, waiting for my answer.
“‘Yes, but you are Americans,’ I said. ‘You don’t believe in kings and queens. You honor a man for what he does. Any of you may be president of the United States. Philip must prove himself worthy of being the nephew of a king and queen. He must prove himself to be a prince before we take notice of that’.” “The little fellow took his reprimand like a man. He knew that he had not been sent to school to be pampered, to be singled out for favors. He was there as Philip, or Philip of Greece, if a last name was demanded— a little boy whose mother had impressed upon him the necessity of working hard, harder even than the other children.”
Philip showed the same burst of energy when he went with the MacJannet group at the 1927 Christmas holidays for two weeks of winter sports at Chamonix. Gustav Kalkun, the Estonian native who was a counselor at the MacJannet camp and ski instructor, watched Philip tumbling into the snow repeatedly, but getting up each time to try again. The next day Kalkun and his American-born wife Hally took a stiff but eager Philip between them and, with a hand and ski pole from each, the lad soon learned fast on steep slopes. Once, when Philip accidentally let go and disappeared under the snow, they had to move fast to dig him out. Besides skiing at Chamonix, Philip, in his usual role as leader, persuaded three other boys that it would be fun to appear at a costume party as chimney sweeps, and that burnt cork was the very best material for blackening faces, ears and hands. And it fell to the lot of Donald’s sister Jean MacJannet, after the party, to help in the slower and more laborious task of removing the cork from the royal face and ears.
Philip was widely pictured in the French, British and American press in a Robin Hood production at the school, laughing as he drew an arrow (see photo above). Others in the picture are his classmates Jack and Anne de Bourbon, son and daughter of Prince René de Bourbon. Philip’s best friends at the school were Wellington and Freeman Koo, sons of V. K. Wellington Koo, then Chinese ambassador to France, and later a judge at the International Court at The Hague.
Guests at the palace
Fifty years later, in 1977, Prince Philip invited Donald and Charlotte MacJannet to a party at Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Jubilee. MacJannet, an old hand at arranging to be in the front row, found the route that Philip would take in circulating among the guests, and Philip stopped to talk. “Am I the only one of my classmates of so long ago that you keep in touch with?” Philip asked him. “Or do you just keep in touch with those who get into the newspapers?” “Try me out,” MacJannet replied. “Name someone you remember.” The prince then asked about Wellington Koo, saying, “He was kind of like me. I was known as the boy who had no last name. He had been pointed out to me as ‘Ching Ching Chinaman’.”
When Philip married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, some MacJannet alumni got a shock of recognition when they saw pictures of Prince Philip at the Elms on a Boston TV station. The film, which Donald had lent to the station, showed a cracker race among some ten pupils at the school, and there was Philip, in his usual mischievous manner, his cheeks bulging with crackers, making faces at the camera.