Seventy years ago today, Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.
The couple were married in Westminster Abbey on 20th November 1947 – meaning in just four months time The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be celebrating their historic Platinum wedding anniversary.
The Queen first met her future husband Prince Philip when she was just 13 years old at the wedding of his cousin, Princess Marina of Greece. It was love at first sight for the young princess. She kept in touch with the 18-year-old naval midshipman, corresponding with him during her teenage years.
In 1946, King George VI agreed to the marriage under the condition that the then Princess Elizabeth wait until after the Royal family’s State visit to Africa when she turned 21.
King George VI gave the couple permission to wed in April 1947. Philip (then known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten) proposed to Elizabeth during a stroll around the gardens of Balmoral. He gave Elizabeth a platinum engagement ring with a large square diamond at its centre and smaller diamonds on each side.
Philip still a Greek citizen, renounced his Greek citizenship and titles he held (he was a Prince of Greece and Denmark by birth). He took on the surname Mountbatten. The news of the Royal engagement leaked to the press before the couple could make their official announcement on 9 July 1947.
Before the wedding, the bridegroom was made Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich with the style of His Royal Highness and chosen as a Knight of the Garter by the King – he would not become a Prince again until 1957 when Elizabeth, as Queen, granted him the title.
More than 2,000 guests attended the Royal Wedding on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. As the first Royal event since World War II ended, the wedding was a countrywide celebration.
As the war had just ended the country was still under rationing rules. As Elizabeth saved ration tokens for the dress material, many across the country sent rations tokens to help. The dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and made of ivory duchess satin and adorned with around 10,000 white pearls imported from the United States.
The bridal bouquet was white orchids and a sprig of myrtle. The sprig is tradition and originates from the bush grown from the myrtle in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet. The following day, it was laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.
The wedding party consisted of eight bridesmaids and two page boys and was officiated by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York. Philip gave Elizabeth a wedding band of Welsh gold to wear together with her engagement ring.
After the wedding service, luncheon was held at Buckingham Palace. The wedding cake was impressive, standing at nine feet high, weighing 500 pounds and containing four tiers. Philip used a sword to ceremonially cut the first slice of cake. One layer was set aside until the christening of Prince Charles and an additional layer was given to Australia in honour of their donations.
The Royal couple’s honeymoon took place in Hampshire located at the Broadlands home which was owned by Lord Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle. They also spent time at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate.
Almost a year to the day after their wedding, the couple welcomed the next heir to the throne Prince Charles, before Elizabeth became monarch a few years later after the death of her father.