These Amazing Photos Reveal What Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Looked Like When They First Got Married
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip have been married since 1947, during which time a whole lot of things have changed. In fact, so much has changed — both within the royal family and around the world — that you may not remember what Elizabeth and Philip looked like back when they were newlyweds, or how they spent their time before Elizabeth became queen.
Read on to check out the best photos of the royal couple in the years right after their marriage. And refresh your memory on what, exactly, they were up to 70 years ago.
1. Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten announced their engagement
The royal family announced Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten’s engagement on July 9, 1947. Philip had proposed to Elizabeth in 1946 even though many in the royal family’s circles thought he was unsuitable for her. (And not just because they’re third cousins.)
Those opposed to the match described Philip as arrogant and feared he might prove unfaithful to Elizabeth. I And it didn’t help that he had no money. Nonetheless, Elizabeth’s father consented to the engagement — as long as the couple waited until after her 21st birthday to announce it.
Next: This is what Philip did before marrying the future Queen Elizabeth II.
2. Philip served in the Royal Navy before marrying Elizabeth
At the time this photo was taken, on August 1, 1947, Philip was a Royal Navy officer. As Town & Country reports, Philip’s family was originally Danish but ruled Greece until his uncle abdicated after World War I. They fled Greece when Philip was a baby, and he grew up in boarding schools. He saw little of his mother (who was in psychiatric care) and his father (who left to live in France with his mistress).
The Radio Times reports that he joined the Royal Navy in 1939, at the age of 18. As a naval officer, Philip served in the Mediterranean and the Far East. He courted Princess Elizabeth through letters and visits. And when he proposed in Scotland in 1946, she immediately said yes, without consulting her parents first.
Next: This is where Philip courted Elizabeth.
3. Philip courted Elizabeth while staying at Windsor Castle
As the Radio Times reports, it was during the war years that Philip and Princess Elizabeth got to know one another. At the time, Princess Elizabeth was living at Windsor Castle. The Telegraph reports that “Her childhood nanny said it was ‘a fortress, not a home.’ The Queen begs to differ: it is her fortress and her home.” That could be partially thanks to Philip, who stayed at the castle while wooing Elizabeth after the war.
Ahead of their wedding, Philip renounced his Danish and Greek royal connections. He converted to become a member of the Church of England. He also became a British subject and adopted the surname Mountbatten. And on the day before the wedding, King George VI gave Philip the title of His Royal Highness and Duke of Edinburgh.
Next: Elizabeth started doing this before the wedding.
4. Elizabeth had already taken on numerous royal duties
Philip isn’t the only member of the royal family who looked sharp in a uniform in the late 1940s. Before her marriage to Philip, Princess Elizabeth had already taken on a variety of royal duties. That includes making appearances at events such as Trooping the Colour, a centuries-old tradition that celebrates the birthday of the British sovereign.
In this photo from 1947, Princess Elizabeth attends the Trooping the Color ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London. The event celebrated her father’s birthday (though today, it marks hers). As you can see in the photo — and in film footage from the ceremony — she wore the uniform of a Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.
Next: Many things went wrong on their wedding day.
5. They got married on November 20, 1947
On November 20, 1947, Elizabeth and Philip tied the knot. Vanity Fair reports that the royal wedding morning was full of mishaps. The diamond tiara Elizabeth planned to wear snapped hours before she walked down the aisle, necessitating an emergency repair. She left an antique pearl necklace behind at St. James Palace. And the bridal party thought that the bouquet had gone missing, only to find out that a footman had placed it in an icebox.
Philip had a mishap of his own, leaving late for Westminster Abbey. He reportedly said when he arrived with his best man, “Bad show, we’re a bit late.” But the ceremony went smoothly and was broadcast around the world via radio. Fans worldwide heard Elizabeth make the controversial promise “to love, to cherish, and to obey” her husband in her vows.
Next: They went on a honeymoon close to home.
6. Elizabeth and Philip honeymooned at Broadlands House and Balmoral Castle
With the stress of getting married in front of 2,000 guests over, Elizabeth and Philip were free to embark on their honeymoon. For their honeymoon destination, Elizabeth and Philip stayed close to home, choosing Broadlands House and Balmoral Castle. (The photo above shows them at the former on November 25, 1947.) As Vanity Fair explains:
Because of post-war austerity, the couple did not spend their honeymoon abroad, but split between two locations with meaning for both families: Broadlands, Hampshire, the home of Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, and Birkhall at the royal family’s Balmoral estate in Scotland. The newlyweds were accompanied on both legs of the honeymoon by a guest: Elizabeth’s favorite corgi, Susan.
Next: They took on this responsibility together.
7. They met foreign dignitaries
As they began married life together, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip had events to attend, appearances to make, and dignitaries to meet. And they started a tradition that Elizabeth has kept up throughout the many decades of her reign: meeting American presidents (and their wives).
Since becoming queen in 1952, Elizabeth has met with most of the United States’ sitting presidents. Harry S. Truman, whom she met in 1951, was the only American president to meet Elizabeth when she was still a princess. Also before her coronation, Elizabeth met Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the photo above, Prince Philip, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary, King Charles VI, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Queen Elizabeth pose on a terrace at Windsor Castle in 1948.
Next: Prince Philip and the future Queen Elizabeth II did this together, too.
8. They made appearances at many events together
From the beginning of their marriage, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip appeared at many events together. In the photo above, the pair talked at the Royal Horse Show at Windsor on May 12, 1949. Town and Country notes that Elizabeth has been “an avid equestrian and general horse lover” for much of her life. In fact, she reportedly began riding at age 3.
In fact, Queen Elizabeth II still rides horses, even in her nineties. In fact, she was out riding when her new great-grandchild, Prince Louis, arrived. And Prince Philip has often accompanied her.
Next: They didn’t waste any time in starting a family.
9. Princess Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950
Within just a few years of their 1947 wedding, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles had their first two children: Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950, just three years before she became Queen Elizabeth II, as Town and Country points out.
After their first two children, Elizabeth and Philip waited more than a decade to have more. (They welcomed Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.) Elizabeth was reportedly “scared” of parenting during her first years as a mother, since her mother did little parenting herself. But she grew into the role. And she once referred to being a mother as “the only job which matters.”
Next: She celebrated this milestone birthday within a few years of their wedding.
10. Princess Elizabeth turned 25 in 1951
On April 21, 1951, Princess Elizabeth turned 25. The same year, Prince Philip turned 30. By that time, they already had two children and were settling into married life, though Princess Elizabeth hadn’t yet become Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, Elizabeth spent several months between 1949 and 1951 as a naval wife in Malta, where the Navy had posted Philip shortly after their wedding.
Decades later, many people speculate that Malta is one of the queen’s favorite countries. Though the British monarch is very well-traveled, having visited approximately 130 nations during her reign, Malta is the only foreign country where she’s lived. She enjoyed living a “normal” life there — a rare experience for the queen.
Next: They took some time to do this — but not enough, according to critics of Queen Elizabeth II.
11. They spent time as a family
Though Elizabeth left Prince Charles behind when she went to spend time with Prince Philip in Malta, the family did spend time together, leading to some adorable photos. The photo above, undated but probably taken in 1951, shows Elizabeth and Philip with Charles and Anne. However, some sources have said that Queen Elizabeth II feels guilty about the ways that she sacrificed time with her family to fulfill her duties first as a princess and then as queen.
According to The Telegraph, former secretaries have accused her of not spending enough time with her family. The Telegraph notes, “As a monarch, the Queen’s performance has been well-nigh flawless. As a mother, however, she has often been less than adequate, according to many who know her well. For much of the time, they say, she has been so detached from the lives of her children that she has seemed more like a distant figurehead.”
Next: They traveled to this location on one of their first royal tours.
12. The couple visited Canda in 1951
Biography reports that when Elizabeth became queen, post-war Britain still had a substantial empire of “dominions and dependencies.” But during the 1950s and 1960s, many of Britain’s territories achieved independence, and the British Empire evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II made visits to other countries as head of the Commonwealth and representative of Britain.
She had already begun traveling the world even before her coronation. In 1951, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip embarked on a royal tour of Canada. In the photo above, they admire a hand-woven basket during a visit to Fort William in Ontario, November 2, 1951, the same day that they watched an ice hockey game in Montreal.
Next: They also traveled to this nation.
13. The couple went to Kenya in 1952
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip traveled to Kenya in 1952. There, they visited Nairobi, where they waved from the balcony of City Hall to the crowds below, as seen in this photo. Elizabeth intended to enjoy a leisurely, wildlife-watching stop in Kenya on what was to be a long tour, undertaken as her ailing father rested at home.
Various locations in Africa are special to several members of the British royal family, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But Kenya became particularly significant for Elizabeth because it’s the place where she found out that she was Britain’s new monarch.
Next: Queen Elizabeth II had to do this abruptly.
14. She assumed the responsibilities of the monarch in 1952
As Biography reports, Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died on February 6, 1952. People reports that George died of a blood clot, and Elizabeth heard the news while she and Philip were still in Kenya. She had to assume the responsibilities of the ruling monarch and decided to return to England immediately.
Others on the trip said that at the time, Elizabeth had climbed up to a treetop viewing platform and lodge in Kenya’s Aberdare national park. She had a camera with her and had been taking in the view. Then she heard the news and paced up and down with Prince Philip, her ladies-in-waiting, and her private secretary. She was named Britain’s new monarch immediately. But she remained in seclusion for the first three months of her reign to mourn her father.
Next: They celebrated this solemn occasion the next year.
15. Elizabeth was crowned queen in 1953
Queen Elizabeth II’s official coronation took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey. Biography notes that for the first time, the ceremony was broadcast on television. The broadcast enabled people across the globe to tune in to watch the solemn ceremony, which History characterizes as “lavish” and “steeped in traditions that date back a millennium.”
1,000 dignitaries and guests attended the coronation at Westminster Abbey, and hundreds of millions of people listened on the radio or watched on television. Spectators heard Elizabeth deliver the coronation oath, which bound her to the service of the people of Great Britain and the British Commonwealth.
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