The Queen called Prince Philip ‘my strength and stay all these years.’
At the tender age of 13, a shy Princess Elizabeth fell for a tall and dashing Navy recruit.
Six years her elder, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had been tasked with showing the young Princess and sister Margaret around his naval base.
They exchanged letters afterwards and the smitten Princess kept a framed photograph of him in her room at Buckingham Palace during the war.
The Queen’s father was initially against the union and the Prince wasn’t always happy at playing second fiddle to his wife.
However it was a loving marriage that lasted over 73 years with the Queen proclaiming Prince Philip to be ‘her strength and stay.’
For decades they endured births, deaths, divorces and thousands of royal engagements together.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, re-visit Broadlands where they spent their honeymoon (Picture: Getty)
While Philip was known for his no-nonsense and even abrupt personality, he was fiercely loyal to his wife.
He gave up his naval career for her, followed her across the globe and would prove to be the rock on which the Queen’s reign has been built.
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The Queen and Prince Philip first met in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent.
The Queen, however, was just eight while the Duke was 14 and had been essentially abandoned by his family and was at boarding school at Gordonstoun.
Five years later their paths would cross again at Dartmouth Naval College as Britain was on the brink of war.
With a shock of bright Scandinavian blond hair, tall and athletic the Prince was already attractive to woman.
He was described as ‘very amusing, full of life and energy and a tease’.
The key to their relationship was said to be laughter (Picture: Rex)
By contrast, the young Princess Elizabeth was a serious and shy child who was very much protected from life by her father King George IV.
Prince Philip recalled telling Elizabeth that she was so shy he couldn’t get a word out of her during the meeting.
In turn, her memory of the day was that he wolfed down a plate of shrimps like he had never eaten before in his life.
It was certainly a case of opposites attract and after the war, in 1946, the Prince asked King George for his eldest daughter’s hand in marriage.
He was initially refused, despite the fact that the King liked the Greek-born young Naval officer.
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He was unlike the aristocrat the Princess Elizabeth would have been expected to marry in that while he had titles, he had no money and no estate.
But more than that, the King was fearful that Prince Philip wasn’t British and didn’t belong to the Church of England.
His fears were not without merit. Just ten years earlier in 1936 a constitutional crisis had swept the British Empire when the Queen’s Uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
As a young man Philip was also known as a flirt, a trait he continued throughout his life.
Princess Elizabeth (how Queen Elizabeth II) with Prince Philip on their wedding day (Picture: Rex Features)
The Queen Mother wrote to her soon-to-be son-in-law asking for his assurance that he would ‘cherish’ her daughter.
He replied he had ‘fallen in love completely and unreservedly’ and promised that his ambition was to make them a team that could take on the world.
He remained true to his word throughout his life.
The engagement was announced on 9th July 1947 after the Queen had turned 21.
Philip proposed to Elizabeth with a ring consisting of a centre stone surrounded by 10 smaller pave diamonds taken from a tiara that belonged to his mother Princess Alice.
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The Queen’s wedding ring is made from a nugget of Welsh gold from the Clogau St David’s mine, near Dolgellau.
The same nugget has been used to make Princess Anne, Princess Diana and Kate Middleton’s wedding rings.
The wedding took place four months after the engagement on 20th November at Westminster Abbey and was watched by 200 million people worldwide.
Post-war Britain meant that rationing was still in effect. The Queen’s simple wedding dress with a fitted bodice and heart-shaped neckline was paid for by clothing coupons.
Hundreds of people across the UK sent the young Princess their coupons to help although they had to be returned as it would have been illegal to use them.
Queen Elizabeth II, as Princess Elizabeth, and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh on their wedding day. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
One of her bridesmaids, Lady Pamela Hicks, recalled: ‘With her bridal dress and tiara on her wedding day, she was a knockout. And, of course, Philip was every girl’s dream Viking prince.’
The Queen had eight bridesmaids, including her sister Margaret. The newly-weds honeymooned at Broadlands, in Hampshire, the home of Philip’s Uncle Earl Mountbatten.
While also husband and wife, the Queen and Prince Philip were also related.
They were second cousins once removed through Christian IX and also third cousins as they are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
During the war, Philip had a distinguished career in the British navy and before the wedding he renounced his Greek and Danish titles as required.
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He also converted from the Greek Orthodox Church to Anglicanism and adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s British family.
On the day of the nuptials, Philip was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.
Marriage gave the now Duke of Edinburgh the emotional stability he lacked during his turbulent youth.
By the age of ten, his family was dispersed across Europe with his older sisters married to German men, his father with his mistress in the south of France and his mother at a psychiatric hospital.
For the first few years they lived a carefree existence and were known as the Edinburghs.
The growing family. The Queen, Prince Philip with Prince Charles and Princess Anne at Balmoral (Picture: Hulton Royals Collection)
They were based at Clarence House except for a spell when the family were dispatched to Malta where Philip was posted as a Royal Navy officer.
Away from the gaze of the media and public, the Queen was his ‘Lilibet’ or Cabbage.
Prince Charles arrived in November 1948 and his sister Anne in August of 1950.
However the days of freedom would come crashing down in 1952 with the shock premature death of King George.
At their retreat at Treetops Lodge, Kenya, the Queen was said to have quickly accepted her destiny while, for Philip, his carefree world had collapsed.
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Straight away, his promising navy career ended and he began a life of living in the shadow of his wife, arguably the most powerful woman in the world.
At her coronation in 1953 he swore to be her ‘liegeman of life and limb.’
If he was terrified by what the future held, he didn’t show it as she walked into Westminster Abbey to accept her fate as ruler.
‘Where did you get that hat?’ he is said to have quipped.
Often the clown, the Duke of Edinburgh knew how to put his shy wife at ease.
The Prince was able to put his shy wife at ease and even teased her during her coronation (Picture: Rex)
On the occasion of her first TV broadcast she froze and the producer could do nothing to help her relax.
Philip stood behind the cameras and reminded her of a time he chased her along a corridor while wearing a huge set of false teeth.
It was enough to relax his wife just as the cameras began to roll.
With the Queen away more on royal duties, Philip had to take a more hands-on role with the children.
In private he fumed that royal protocol meant they were christened Windsor instead of his name Mountbatten.
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‘I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children,’ he fumed.
‘I’m nothing but a bloody amoeba.’
However he gritted his teeth and allowed his wife to be dominant – at least in public.
Behind the scenes, Philip was very much the man of the household although he has broken the mould on numerous occasions.
He was at the Queen’s side for the birth of fourth child Edward in 1964 at Buckingham Palace, which was the first time in modern history that any royal father had been allowed at a birth.
The royal couple during a 1963 tour of Australia (Picture: Rex Features)
The couple remained devoted to each other and the Duke comforted the Queen on the deaths of her mother and sister in 2002.
They weathered the storms of three of their four children divorcing and public opinion turning on the monarchy after the death of Princess Diana.
The Duke always saw it as his role in life to ‘never let her down’ and was her steadfast supporter.
There was never a template for the job of King Consort and so Philip took the view ‘I just tried to find useful things to do.’
Those closest to them say that laughter cemented their relationship.
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Hugo Vickers, biographer of both the Queen Mother and Princess Alice of Greece, the Duke’s mother, said: ‘Prince Philip has always seen it as his role to keep his wife’s spirits up during public events, and keep her feeling jolly about things.
‘It is what makes them such a good double act.’
Their daughter-in-law Sophie, the wife of Edward, said: ‘For her to have found somebody like him, I don’t think she could have chosen better.
‘And they make each other laugh – which is, you know, it’s half the battle, isn’t it?’
There were unproved allegations of affairs by the Duke along the way and he was known to be a dreadful flirt.
Queen Elizabeth II And Prince Philip Prince Philip Arrive At Ascot In 1980 (Picture: Rex Features)
Initially the Queen was said to have been hurt by the rumours but got used to his roving eye and his preference of female company to male.
The older generation of royals are more aloof than the likes of Harry and Meghan and it is rare to get any insights into their thoughts about one another.
However over the years there has been the odd snippet.
On their 25th anniversary in 1972, the Queen proclaimed ‘If I am asked about what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can answer with equal simplicity and conviction. I am for it.’
The pair mainly slept in separate rooms and rarely held hands in public.
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The Duke once noted his thoughts on what made their marriage so successful.
‘I think the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage…You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.’
The pair also had separate interests with Philip enjoying carriage driving while the Queen preferred her horses to race.
He was also said to hate her beloved corgis, once complaining ‘Bloody dogs! Why do have to have so many?’
Like all married couples they would bicker in private and even – if rumour is to be believed – during an early royal tour to Australia in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth II joined by Prince Philip at the polo in June 2018. (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)
The Queen was said to be furious about something and hurled abuse and a tennis racket and her husband before remarking to stunned reporters ‘I’m sorry for that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage.’
Like all relationships they did have their ups and downs and they leant heavily on each other in later life during Prince Philip’s health worries.
Just before the Diamond Jubilee, he was taken to hospital from Windsor Castle and the Queen looked at him and said: ‘Don’t you die on me.’
In typical bombastic spirit, he retorted: ‘Of course I won’t. Not until this is all over anyway!’
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The Queen cut a lonely figure on official engagements following the Duke’s retirement in August 2017.
She missed him desperately while he stayed away from the limelight at a cottage on the Sandringham Estate even though the children and grandchildren paid more visits to her in London.
Now she will be even more reliant on the strong family unit they managed to make throughout their 73-year partnership.
The Duke made the Queen’s reign possible and her devotion was evident when she declared on their Golden wedding anniversary in 1997: ‘He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.’
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