Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s love story captivated the world for seven decades. Through thick and thin, the royal pair’s steadfast love for one another inspired couples young and old. Let’s take a look back at the 73-year long love story of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
1934 – 1946: A Secret Engagement
Philip and Elizabeth first met in 1934 at the wedding of Philips’s cousin. It wasn’t until they met again in 1939 at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth that 13-year old Elizabeth fell in love with 18-year old Philip. They exchanged letters while Philip served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and the pair became secretly engaged in 1946.
King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, did approve of their engagement but insisted that a formal engagement wouldn’t be made public until Elizabeth turned 21 the following year. The then-princess Elizabeth’s engagement ring was designed by Philip himself using a three-carat center diamond and 10 smaller stones selected from a tiara belonging to Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg.
Before wedding planning could begin, Philip resigned his titles as Prince of Greece and Denmark and adopted the monicker “Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.” He also converted from Greek Orthodoxy to the Anglican Church. On November 19, 1947 – one day before Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding – King George bestowed Philip with the name “His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich” (try saying that ten times fast).
1947: The Wedding
Philip and Elizabeth were married on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony was attended by 2,500 people – but in case that wasn’t enough, it was also broadcast over BBC radio to 200 million listeners worldwide!
Even though the special day was fit for a Queen, there were some mishaps that happened prior to Princess Elizabeth walking down the aisle. While getting ready for the ceremony, Elizabeth’s tiara snapped in half!
The bride’s tiara – known as the Russian Fringe Tiara – belonged to Elizabeth II’s grandmother Queen Mary. Luckily it was fixed by the royal jeweler just in time for the ceremony. The same tiara has since been worn by Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter Princess Anne and her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice, for their wedding ceremonies.
Jewelry emergencies aside, Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding was a beautiful celebration of their love for each other – complete with a nine-foot tall fruitcake!
1948 – 1952: Newlywed Life
Philip and Elizabeth settled in Malta for their first year of marriage, where Philip was stationed as a naval officer. In a letter written during their honeymoon, Queen Elizabeth shared that “we behave as though we had belonged to each other for years.”
On November 14, 1948 – just six days shy of their first wedding anniversary – Philip the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth welcomed their first child Charles Prince of Wales. Two years later they welcomed their second child and only daughter Anne, Princess Royal.
1953 – 1960: The Queen and I
By 1951, George VI’s health was in rapid decline. This often meant that Princess Elizabeth would take his place during royal tours. In early 1952 Elizabeth and Philip jetted off to tour Australia and New Zealand, stopping in Kenya for a layover. On February 6, 1952 while at the Sagana Lodge in Kenya Elizabeth was informed of her father’s death and her accession to the British Throne. In fact, Philip insisted that he would deliver the heartbreaking news to his wife.
While still mourning the loss of her father, 26-year old Elizabeth had to navigate her new life as Queen. She was coronated at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, for all the world to see, for the first time in history, on television.
This period in the lives of the young couple would be the most challenging yet. Philip, as the royal consort of Queen Elizabeth II, was asked to take the surname of his wife to maintain the royal family’s name as the House of Windsor rather than changing it to the House of Mountbatten. Philip is recorded saying, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”
Regardless, Philip selflessly gave up his career in the Royal Navy to stand by the new Queen’s side. While addressing Parliament in 2012 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen lovingly spoke of her husband:
“Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout, he has been a constant strength and guide.”
1964 – 1984: A (Royal) Family Affair
While settling into her their new roles as heads of the British Monarchy, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth welcomed two more children: Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Queen Elizabeth traveled to Commonwealth countries around the globe. She was noted for her strength and bravery during several stressful events including the threat of multiple assassination attempts. Meanwhile, Prince Philip founded multiple organizations and charities to give back to the United Kingdom. In total, Prince Philip was a patron of over 900 charitable organizations in his lifetime. He especially loved to support education, sports, the environment, and business.
In 1977, the Royal Family soon began to grow with the birth of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s first grandchild, Peter – the son of Princess Anne. Prince Charles would follow suit with the births of Prince William in 1982 and Prince Harry in 1984.
1997: The Death of Princess Diana
1997 marked the 50th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip. However, this joyous accomplishment was overshadowed by the tragic death of Lady Diana Spencer. Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth were tested both as members of the Royal Family and as the grandparents of Prince William and Prince Harry. Prince Philip walked alongside the young royals during the funeral procession for Princess Diana in September 1997.
2020: Celebrating 73 Years
In 2020, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary. By this time, Prince Philip had taken a step back from some of his public duties to prioritize his health. During Queen Elizabeth’s 2016 Christmas speech, she lovingly paid tribute to her husband:
“Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little — having, as he economically put it, ‘done his bit’. But I know his support and unique sense of humor will remain as strong as ever.’”
2021: The Death of Prince Philip
On April 9, 2021, Prince Philip died “of old age” at Windsor Castle, just two months short of his 100th birthday. Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in history. His funeral was held in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17th, 2021. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 30 people attended the service.
A thanksgiving service for the life of Prince Philip was held at Westminster Abbey in March 2022. Many members of the royal family chose to forgo the usual all-black dress code and instead chose to wear Prince Philip’s favorite color: Edinburgh Green.
In a statement posted to the Royal Family’s Instagram, Princess Anne shared a message about her father, Prince Philip:
“My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic, but it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate. His ability to treat every person as an individual in their own right with their own skills comes through all the organisations with which he was involved.”
Queen Elizabeth II joined her beloved Prince when she passed away on September 8, 2022. Their 73-year love story is truly one for the ages.