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After meeting as teenagers, the Queen and Prince Philip married in front of the nation and stayed together a lifetime.
They had the longest royal marriage in British history, which started with a friendship when Elizabeth was just 13.
The relationship between the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty the Queen truly stood the test of time.
“For her to have found somebody like him, I don’t think she could have chosen better,” the Queen’s daughter-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, once said.
“And they make each other laugh, which is half the battle, isn’t it? He’s been a fantastic life partner for her,” she added.
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Her Majesty always spoke about her husband with adoration, comparing him with an “angel” in the early months of their marriage. Distant cousins through Queen Victoria, they first met at the wedding of Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, to Elizabeth’s uncle, the Duke of Kent, in 1934.
But it was an encounter at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in 1939 that sealed their fate. Elizabeth, then 13, was smitten with 18-year-old Philip, a 6ft, blond-haired cadet who showed the royal family around. Her governess, Marion Crawford, later wrote that the princess “never took her eyes off him”. And Sir John Wheeler-Bennett – the official biographer of the Queen’s father, George VI – wrote: “This was the man with whom Princess Elizabeth had been in love from their first meeting.”
The pair began exchanging letters while Philip was serving with the Royal Navy. In 1943, while on leave, he visited Windsor Castle to watch Elizabeth, then 17, take part in the pantomime Aladdin.
It was then people began to suspect a blossoming romance. King George VI was clearly impressed, saying Philip was “intelligent, has a good sense of humour and thinks about things in the right way”.
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When Philip returned to London in March 1946, he moved into the home of his uncle, Earl Mountbatten, and became a frequent visitor to the palace. In a letter to Elizabeth, Philip said he had “fallen in love completely and unreservedly”. Their mutual cousin Patricia Mountbatten said, “Philip had a capacity for love which was waiting to be unlocked, and Elizabeth unlocked it.”
Philip proposed at Balmoral in late summer 1946 and Elizabeth accepted, without consulting her parents. Philip then asked the King for permission and he agreed on condition a formal engagement be announced after her 21st birthday the next April. In July 1947, a notice stated that the King and Queen were announcing the engagement with “the greatest of pleasure”.
But behind the scenes, there had reportedly been doubts about Philip’s suitability. His father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, had been exiled and three of his four elder sisters married German aristocrats who became leading figures in the Nazi Party. None of his siblings would be invited to his wedding.
There were also questions over whether an elaborate wedding would be welcomed after the austerity of war. But Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it would be “a flash of colour on the hard road we have to travel”. The couple tied the knot on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey in front of 2,000 guests. And it was Philip – who would later prove instrumental in modernising the royal family – who pushed for it to be televised.
Elizabeth wore a bespoke Norman Hartnell gown. Post-war privations meant the material was paid for with ration coupons – with the government giving her an extra 200.
Philip renounced his nationality, his title Prince Philip of Greece and his Greek Orthodox religion to marry Elizabeth. The day before the ceremony, George VI bestowed the title of Royal Highness on him – and on the big day, Philip was made Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. The wedding brought joy to the nation and crowds up to 50 people deep stood in the cold November streets to catch a glimpse of the royals – who were driven to Buckingham Palace in the Glass coach, followed by two regiments of the Household Cavalry.
“To see that golden coach and beautiful horses was marvellous,” bridesmaid Lady Pamela Hicks said. “Princess Elizabeth with her marvellous complexion and
Prince Philip, such a devastatingly handsome naval officer. He looked tender, she was adoring. They were the dream couple.”
Respecting post-war restrictions, the wedding breakfast had just 150 guests. It began with fillet of sole, followed by partridge, which was unrationed. The only luxury came in the dessert.
The bombe glacée had fresh strawberries – an expensive rarity at the end of November – which were specially grown in the hot houses at Windsor Castle.
The happy couple spent the first few days of their honeymoon at Broadlands, Lord Mountbatten’s Hampshire home.
And while Philip was not one for expressing his affection in public, he wrote to his mother-in-law, “Cherish Lilibet? I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me.”
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