For nearly 74 years, The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were happily married, but their love began several years before their 1947 wedding at Westminster Abbey.
Their story began in 1939 when Princess Elizabeth was 13, and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was 18. Elizabeth had joined her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and younger sister Princess Margaret on a trip to the royal naval college, Dartmouth, and teenage Elizabeth was smitten by the handsome royal cadet.
Prince Philip went off to fight in World War Two, and he and Elizabeth exchanged letters. Her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, later said: “Elizabeth was truly in love from the very beginning.”
By the summer of 1946, Prince Philip asked the King for permission to marry Elizabeth, and King George VI agreed with the stipulation that their formal engagement not take place until after her 21st birthday. Their engagement was announced by Buckingham Palace on 10 July 1947 after Philip had renounced his Greek and Danish titles, become a British subject and adopted the surname Mountbatten.Embed from Getty Images
The pair married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947 with the King bestowing the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich on Philip. The previous day, he had granted Philip the style of Royal Highness and made him a Knight of the Order of the Garter.
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Clarence House and had their first child, Prince Charles, in November 1948. Their only daughter, Princess Anne, followed in 1950. The family lived in Malta for a time, which have been said to be some of the happiest years of Elizabeth’s life. Lady Pamela Hicks – a bridesmaid of Elizabeth’s and a first cousin of Philip – once said of Elizabeth’s time in Malta: “They were magical days of endless picnics, sunbathing and waterskiing… It was the only place that she was able to live the life of a naval officer’s wife, just like all the other wives.”
The family returned to the United Kingdom in 1951, and Elizabeth took on more duties to support her ill father. She and Philip undertook a tour of Canada in late 1951 and began a tour of the Commonwealth in January 1952. Their first and only stop was Kenya. It was there that Philip was told that the King had died, and his wife was now the monarch. He broke the news to Elizabeth that her beloved father had passed, and she was now The Queen.
They immediately returned to the United Kingdom, and Philip began his duties as consort. While there were some hiccups along the way (where he wanted his children to take his last name), the relationship between The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh only strengthened over time. He was at her side on all state visits and many other visits across the world. They went on to have two more children together: Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
The Queen announced that Philip was to “place, pre-eminence and precedence” beside her after her ascension to the throne “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament.” A few years after becoming the monarch, Her Majesty gave Philip the title of Prince of the United Kingdom on 22 February 1957.
In 1997, the couple celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary where The Queen spoke of her relationship with Prince Philip, revealing: “All too often, I fear, Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking. Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.”
She went on to praise him for his support of her, the country and the Commonwealth saying: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
Prince Philip was Queen Elizabeth II’s rock, her endless support system, biggest cheerleader and toughest critic. He loved her without question and stood beside her as she faced challenge after challenge during her reign. The Duke of Edinburgh was also right beside her, ever the proud husband, as she celebrated monumental milestones like her 2012 Diamond Jubilee and 90th birthday celebrations.
He stepped back from royal duties in 2017 and enjoyed a quiet life behind the scenes. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed him and The Queen to spend some quality time together in his final months. And in his final moments, The Queen was beside her “strength and stay” until the very end.
On 9 April 2021, Buckingham Palace released a statement on behalf of Her Majesty:
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle … The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”
The Queen has since said losing Philip has “left a huge void in her life.”
Since his passing, The Queen has shown how her love of Philip is everlasting with the heartwarming posts on social media and never before seen images released by the Royal Family. The day before his funeral, Buckingham Palace released one of Her Majesty’s favourite private photos with her husband – taken by the Countess of Wessex in 2003 at the top of the Coyles of Muick, Scotland.
With the image, Buckingham Palace said: “The Duke of Edinburgh was a loving husband and a devoted father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The Queen and The Duke’s enduring marriage has seen them support each other through many years of Royal duties and raising a family together.”
And with that statement, The Queen made a powerful statement on love – even though Philip is gone from earth, he will forever remain in her heart. Their everlasting love will continue into the afterlife.