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A look back at Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s honeymoon

On the morning of her wedding, 20 November 1947, Princess Elizabeth left Buckingham Palace at 11.16 am with the King in the Irish State Coach for Westminster Abbey, to which 2,000 guests had been invited. Following the ceremony, the Wedding Breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace in the Ball Supper Room. When Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip set out from Buckingham Palace, rose petals were thrown over them instead of confetti as they left. Princess Elizabeth was wearing a matching dress and coat ensemble, designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who had also designed her Wedding Dress; it was a mist-blue outfit with mushroom-coloured accessories and a blue felt bonnet-beret with a pompom of ostrich feathers and feather quills.

The newly-married couple departed for Waterloo Station, accompanied by Sue, the Welsh corgi. This was in fact, following an earlier pattern set by her parents. The future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had also in fact departed for they honeymoon from Waterloo Station, following their marriage in 1923; their honeymoon had been at Polesden Lacey in Surrey, lent to them by the Hon. Mrs Greville. The future King and Queen had also been showered with rose petals and were photographed in an open landau, leaving Buckingham Palace. In a further royal circle in the next generation, HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Princess of Wales also spent part of their honeymoon at Broadlands, having departed from Waterloo Station, following their wedding in 1981, where they remained for three days before flying to Gibraltar to board their Mediterranean cruise on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.  

Broadlands, in Hampshire, from Morris’s Country Seats (1880) [United States public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The first part of the royal honeymoon was spent at the Grade II * listed Palladian house of Broadlands near Romsey, in Hampshire, the home of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the uncle of Prince Philip. Sold to Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston in 1736, the gardens were naturalised by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, later becoming the seat of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who was Prime Minister from 1859-1865, during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was here that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent their wedding night. They were photographed at Broadlands, walking in the grounds with Susi, the corgi. Touchingly, this was recreated for the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, when they were photographed by the photographer Tim Graham in the gardens of Broadlands, in 2007. Facing The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty The Queen wore the brooch and necklaces which she wore on her honeymoon in 1947.

The second half of their honeymoon was spent in Aberdeenshire, at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate. Before leaving Hampshire for Birkhall, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip issued a statement from Buckingham Palace, to express their heartfelt gratitude to the nation and to all well-wishers worldwide, who had shown such warm affection on the occasion. It read: “Before we leave for Scotland tonight we want to say that the reception given us on our wedding day and the loving interest shown by our fellow-countrymen and well-wishers in all parts of the world have left an impression which will never grow faint. We can find no words to express what we feel, but we can at least offer our grateful thanks to the millions who have given us this unforgettable send off in our married life.”

Birkhall would remain a popular choice for the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth after their marriage, alongside 145 Piccadilly and Royal Lodge, in Windsor Great Park. Following their accession, their homes instead became the official royal residences of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle as well as the private residences of Sandringham in Norfolk and Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother reverted to her earlier residences of Birkhall and Royal Lodge after the death of King George VI in 1952, making Clarence House her official London residence and purchasing the Castle of Mey in Caithness as a private residence in addition. Queen Elizabeth collected watercolours and drawings of some of the residences that she owned, of which Birkhall was no exception.

Birkhall, photographed in 1964 (Alan Findlay [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Birkhall was built in 1715. Encircled by a stone wall, it is surrounded by lawns and trees close to the River Muick on the Balmoral Estate, not far from Loch Muick where Queen Victoria had her secluded house in the shadow of Lochnagar, known as the ‘Glassalt Shiel’. Birkhall was designated as a Highland retreat for the Prince of Wales – the future Edward VII – in 1849, when Prince Albert purchased it for his son, although he only visited it once. Queen Victoria painted a watercolour of Birkhall as seen from Ballater; she visited Birkhall whilst she was staying at Balmoral in 1868, together with her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice and the Duchess of Atholl. In 1875, she reversed her subject, painting Ballater from Birkhall in a watercolour. Queen Victoria later re-acquired Birkhall. It was much modernised by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in the 1950s, who added a new wing and realised many of the plans for the gardens that she had made with her husband in the 1930s. It is now, in a pleasant continuance of the association with the honeymoon of Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, the residence in Scotland of HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, whose Scottish titles are the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018

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