The rare match of two young, smitten royals, Elizabeth II and Philip of Greece and Denmark, was a surprise in and of itself. Their courtship and marriage had its pitfalls and promises, and the two have remained together for 70 years now. Queen Elizabeth II even joked that she had no idea how to celebrate a marriage that long, as she hadn’t expected to be alive.
Their marriage was anything but conventional, and while a few parts of their story are unique, albeit touching, there’s one fact about the couple that in modern-day, nonroyal life is downright disturbing (page 12).
They met when they were young
Philip and a young Elizabeth had crossed paths before, notably at the coronation of King George VI in 1937. However, they didn’t spend any time together until July 1939 when the King and Queen took their daughters, Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret, to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth where Philip was a cadet in training.
“There was a whole battalion of lively young men,” said Lady Anne Glenconner, whose family were friends and neighbors of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Sandringham, their estate in Norfolk. Princess Elizabeth, the heiress presumptive to the British throne, “realized her destiny and luckily set her heart on Prince Philip at an early age,” she said.
Next: You’d be surprised how people described the prince.
Philip was known as a ‘sensitive Adonis’
Glenconner called Philip an “ideal” match for Elizabeth. He was “good-looking and a foreign prince,” standing at six feet tall with sharp features, blue eyes, and blond hair. According to Vanity Fair, Philip was athletic, engaging, confident, and a resourceful self-starter.
He was also a bit of a loner. His first cousin, Patricia Mountbatten, called him “a more sensitive person than you would appreciate,” noting, “He had a tough childhood, and his life constrained him to a hard exterior in order to survive.”
Next: Elizabeth was known to impress.
While Elizabeth was called ‘absolutely natural’
In February 1946 while enjoying the freedom of the postwar era, Elizabeth impressed Laura Grenfell, in her family home, as “absolutely natural,” and someone who had “everyone in fits.”
Grenfell described Elizabeth as “thoroughly enjoying herself” while dancing as the “Guardsmen in uniform queued up.” To their dismay, she only had eyes for Philip.
Next: Their relationship began while Elizabeth was extremely young.
They began their relationship after meeting in Dartmouth
The two met on Elizabeth’s families’ aforementioned visit to Philip’s college. Elizabeth was 13 at the time and Philip 18. The two exchanged letters over the next several years.
Philip returned to Portsmouth in January 1946. Posted near home, he was able to frequently visit London. Marion Crawford, Princess Elizabeth’s governess, described watching Philip pull up to Buckingham Palace in his black MG sports car. He was “always in a hurry to see Lilibet (Elizabeth’s childhood nickname),” and according to Crawford, Elizabeth started to pay more attention to her appearance.
Next: This one condition postponed their marriage.
There was a marital condition
When Philip asked King George VI for his blessing, the king granted him permission on one condition: The formal engagement be delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the following April. Both he and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, felt their daughter was too young to marry.
They were both also reportedly disappointed that she chose to marry the first man she met. Queen Elizabeth had made clear her preference for one of Lilibet’s “aristocratic English friends” who had a family background similar to their own, and money to boot.
Next: Even the royal family has family drama.
There was some drama associated with their marriage
The couple announced their engagement in July 1947 and were introduced at a Buckingham Palace garden party the next day. However, the British public wrote him off as “a German” and Elizabeth’s mother reportedly called him “the Hun.” Many found him not good enough for Elizabeth as he was foreign-born and didn’t have money.
However, right before the wedding, King George VI gave his future son-in-law multiple “grand titles” including Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. Most importantly, the king decreed that Prince Philip should from now on be addressed as “His Royal Highness.”
Next: Philip had to get rid of one thing before they wed.
Philip had to discard his royal titles
In order to receive the proper titles fit for Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Philip had to release his own. He was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark but renounced the titles in 1947 in an attempt to soften his reputation with the British public and blend with the royal family.
He took on the style of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, adopting the surname of his mother’s British family. Several months after the couple announced their engagement, Philip converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism and was confirmed in the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Next: World War II had a big influence on the guest list.
A few family members were banned from the wedding
The royal couple tied the knot at Westminster Abbey in November 1947. Philip’s German family members, including his sisters, weren’t allowed to attend, as it was only two years after World War II.
It wasn’t just the Germans who were banned, however; Elizabeth’s uncle, the former King Edward VIII, was not invited. He abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry a divorced American socialite, his mistress Wallis Simpson.
Next: The couple celebrated their wedding multiple times.
They had two honeymoons
The newlyweds spent their first honeymoon in Romsey, New Hampshire. They walked the grounds of the Broadlands, the house owned by Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten.
They honeymooned for the second time in Malta the following year. Phillip was stationed there at the time. According to Lady Pamela Hicks, on of Elizabeth’s close companions at the time, ‘The Princess really loved Malta because she was able to lead a normal life, wander through the town and do some shopping.”
Next: They became parents quickly.
They had a family quickly…
Nearly a year after their wedding day, Elizabeth gave birth to the couple’s first child, Prince Charles. on Nov. 14, 1948. Two years later, they welcomed their only daughter, Princess Anne.
They waited nearly another decade before having two more sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
Next: Here’s why the family wasn’t always together.
… But didn’t always live with their kids
Between 1949 and 1951, while Philip was stationed in Malta, he and Elizabeth lived at Villa Guardamangia, the rented home of his uncle Lord Mountbatten, for several months at a time. Their two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, a toddler and infant, respectively, lived in Britain.
Next: This disturbing fact about Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip will shock you.
The one disturbing fact of their marriage? The two are related. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark. They’re third cousins as well through their great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Philip was actually more royal than Elizabeth: His mother was the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and his father was a descendant of a Danish Prince recruited for the Greek throne.
Next: Here’s how this was received in the royal family.
This wasn’t uncommon among royals
Even weirder? This wasn’t uncommon among royals, even in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840.
Elizabeth and Philip were actually both connected to most of Europe’s reigning families.
Next: Philip attempted to handle Elizabeth’s rise to power.
Philip struggled with Elizabeth’s rise to power
Following her father’s death, Philip gave up his spot as a naval officer to support Elizabeth’s royal duties. Philip was known to butt heads with the Buckingham Palace staff, among other arguments surrounding Elizabeth’s future title as queen.
While Philip resented giving up his career at the time, he reflected philosophically later in life about his path. “I thought I was going to have a career in the Navy but it became obvious there was no hope … There was no choice. It just happened. You have to make compromises. That’s life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it.”
Next: The two are still very much in love.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip just celebrated their 70th anniversary
Not only did Queen Elizabeth II release this heartwarming video for the couple’s 70th anniversary, the two had beautiful new portraits taken. The couple celebrated their platinum anniversary on November 20th with a huge party at Windsor Castle surrounded by their friends and family.
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