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British Royals

Witnesses to one of the most important royal weddings in history

It was the beginning of a royal chapter which would make history time and time again.

On November 20th 1947, the ceremony which joined Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip as wife and husband was described by one of the clergy involved as ”in all essentials, exactly the same as it would have been for any cottager who might be married this afternoon”. And just like everyone who said ‘I do’ that day, the newlyweds put pen to paper to record their union by signing the marriage register. But unlike other couples, the list of witnesses who signed the book alongside them was really rather regal indeed. Kings, queens, princes and princesses all made their mark on that historic entry. Here’s who signed the register at The Queen’s wedding.

The Bride’s Family

First to sign among the witnesses were the parents of the bride who head the list as ‘George R’ and ‘Elizabeth R’. They are followed by ‘Mary R’, the signature of the princess’ beloved paternal grandmother. Princess Margaret found a small spot towards the end of the first column of signatures to add her name – but then she had competition.

The Groom’s Family

Prince Philip’s mother was next to sign but her decision to sign, ‘’Princess Andrew of Greece’’, wasn’t just an indicator of her official title. It was another reminder of the groom’s father who had died just three years earlier. The groom’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, also added his name to the register, signing as ‘’Mountbatten of Burma’’ while his wife added her signature ‘’Edwina Mountbatten of Burma’’.

Philip’s aunt by marriage, Nada Milford Haven, also signed as did his maternal grandmother. She had been born a princess but lost her title during George V’s clear out of German links during World War One and so wrote her name as ‘’Victoria Milford Haven’’.

The House of Windsor

The wider Windsor family all made their mark on the register, too. The bride’s paternal uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, signed simply as ‘’Henry’’ while his wife added ‘’Alice’’ to mark her witnessing of this historic marriage. Elizabeth’s aunt, the Duchess of Kent, also signed using just her first name, Marina.

A princess who had famously given up her title to marry also witnessed the wedding. The signature of Patricia Ramsay, born Princess Patricia of Connaught, sits just above that of one of her cousins. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, signed simply ‘’Alice Mary’’. The two women were both granddaughters of Queen Victoria, coming together for an important chapter in the life of the woman who would one day replace her as the longest reigning monarch in British history.

Perhaps the starkest signature on the page reads ‘’Athlone’’. It belonged to Alexander, Earl of Athlone, brother of Queen Mary and husband of the Alice Mary who got her name in just ahead of his on this historic marriage register entry.

Kings and Queens

As well as her parents and paternal grandmother, the bride could count on several other European monarchs to sign the registration of her marriage. Putting pen to paper that day were the King of Norway, Haakon VII, who was Elizabeth’s great uncle by marriage. Frederik IX and Ingrid of Denmark also signed. Meanwhile, tucked away amongst the final names is ‘’Michael R’’, the signature of the King of Romania who would return to his home country following the wedding to find himself faced with a coup that would send him into exile just weeks later.

Seven decades on

Of all the people who happily gathered round to sign that register over seven decades ago, two would make their mark on royal history like no others – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. As was traditional, the groom signed the register first, recording Philip on the top line marked out for the couple with his bride adding Elizabeth just beneath. Opposite sits the signature of the Archbishop of Canterbury who officiated at the ceremony. Geoffrey Fisher wrote ”Geoffrey Canterbury” while beneath is ”Alan C Don”, recording the presence of the Dean of Westminster at the service.

It was a wedding that was described as ”in all essentials, exactly the same” like any other that same day but which went on to become a cornerstone in regal history and our very concept of modern monarchy.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.