A royal marriage: The love story of Philip and Elizabeth

Married for more than 70 years, the Queen and Philip enjoyed a happy life together.

A royal marriage: The love story of Philip and Elizabeth Getty Images
Love story: The Queen and Prince Philip were married for more than 70 years.

Theirs was a marriage of partnership, respect and devotion to one another.

For more than 70 years, the Queen and Prince Philip lived a life which encompassed love and duty, serving the country and for Philip himself, his own wife. 

For Prince Philip it could be no other way; his bride to be was destined to be Queen and in marrying her, would support her as a husband and as her consort.

They met when the young princess was just a teenager and he still held his title as the Prince of Greece and Denmark.

At just 13 years of age, it is said she vowed never to settle for another man. 

Yet with no financial standing, no kingdom and sisters who had married Nazis, he was a controversial choice for a young princess.

But she loved him. For her that was simply enough.

Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten following their engagement in 1947.Getty Images
Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten following their engagement in 1947.

Philip proposed to Elizabeth at Balmoral in 1946, a place which would mean a great deal to them as they grew their family in later years.

The young princess accepted without first consulting the King and Queen.

King George VI agreed to their marriage but insisted that a formal engagement was delayed until his eldest daughter turned 21 the following spring. 

In letters written soon after their wedding in 1947, Elizabeth’s devotion to Philip shone through the pages.

“Philip is an angel,” she told her parents. “We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years.”

In return he enthused: “She is the only thing in the world which is absolutely real to me.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1947.<br>”/><span
class=Getty Images
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1947.

A formal proposal in July 1947 followed, with Philip proposing to Elizabeth with a diamond ring consisting of a centre stone flanked by ten smaller pave diamonds.

It was a nod to Philip’s past as they prepared for their future – his mother had gifted the prince a tiara she was given on her own wedding day so that her son could have it dismantled and created into a new piece for his future wife. 

Designing the ring himself, he would also have a bracelet made with other stones from the tiara, given to the princess as a wedding gift. 

While elegant diamonds marked their engagement, their wedding was by comparison a little more austere, as far as one could imagine for a future queen. 

She collected ration tokens to purchase the material for her wedding gown, a duchess satin dress covered with motifs of star lilies and orange blossoms. 

Before their wedding, Philip relinquished his titles and converted to Anglicanism, taking the name Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the surname of his mother’s British family. 

He was made a royal highness by King George and on the morning of the wedding, became the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was a sacrifice for Philip but one he duly made for for his wife, who would one day become his queen. 

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoying a walk during their honeymoon.Getty Images
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoying a walk during their honeymoon.

The couple honeymooned at Balmoral before beginning married life in a country house near Windsor Castle, later taking up residence at Clarence House in London. 

Soon their family began to grow, with Prince Charles arriving in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950.

They had precious few years together as ‘simply’ Princess and Duke, pet corgis became part of the family and they travelled to Balmoral as much as they could, enjoying picnics on the grounds.

“Balmoral is a place one looks forward to very much as the summer goes on,” reflected the Queen in the 1990s.

“I think it has an atmosphere of its own. You just hibernate; but it’s rather nice to hibernate for a bit when one lives such a very movable life.”

Their lives changed forever upon King George VI’s death in 1952. They had been carrying out a royal tour in Kenya and when news reached of his death, Philip was the one to tell his wife. 

It is often said that she ascended the steps of the treetop hotel in which they were staying a Princess, and descended as Queen. 

So began the biggest step in Prince Philip and the now-Queen Elizabeth’s marriage. He would be her consort, her supporter while she became head of state and defender of the faith. 

The change did not come without its challenges. It was decided the House of Windsor would remain and Philip privately complained “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children”.

In later years, Philip and Elizabeth’s male-line descendants who did not carry royal titles would become Mountbatten-Windsor’s.

At Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, Prince Philip knelt before her and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb”.

The now-Queen made sure of it, announcing the Duke to have “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament“. 

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave at the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave at the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

In 1957, she restored a title onto him which he held when they first met – making him a Prince, although a British one at that. 

Soon Princes Andrew and Edward arrived into the family and so began decades of royal tours, balls, and state visits, with the couple side by side. 

As their children grew, married and had children of their own, the Queen and Prince Philip relished their roles as grandparents – with Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, children of Prince Andrew often fondly referring to the Queen as “granny”.

Yet there would be troubled times ahead – Prince Philip was said to have ‘pressured’ his son Charles into proposing to Lady Diana Spencer in a letter as he continued to live life as a bachelor. 

Then as fast as the fairytale weddings happened, they began to crumble. 

In 1992, dubbed by the Queen as her ‘annus horribilis’, three of her children’s marriages broke down and a huge fire engulfed Windsor Castle. 

It was a turning point for the royal family.

Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, the royal family was criticised for their seclusion, with the Queen and Prince Philip opting to shield their young grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry from the press at Balmoral. 

Failing to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace caused controversy and pressured by the hostile reaction of the press, the Queen made a live television broadcast the day before the funeral, expressing admiration for Diana and her feelings as a grandmother for the two princes.

The couple would round a difficult year with their golden wedding anniversary, holding a reception at Banqueting House to mark the occasion. 

It was then she famously referred to her husband as “my strength and stay”.

Queen Elizabeth II famously referred to Prince Philip as Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II famously referred to Prince Philip as “my strength and stay”.

As the years passed, occasions such as Prince William’s marriage to Catherine Middleton and the subsequent birth of their three children George, Charlotte and Louis brought great joy to the couple. 

Prince Harry wed former actress Meghan Markle in 2018, later announcing they were expecting their first child the following spring. Their union was widely seen as steps towards a more modern monarchy. 

However the couple soon decided to step away from their roles as senior members of the royal family and moved to the US, with Prince Harry stating in interviews that he remained close with his grandmother and grandfather despite tensions with other family members. 

Now great-grandparents to ten children and the Duchess of Sussex pregnant with her second child, Philip and Elizabeth began to wind down their duties, with Philip formerly stepping away from public duties in 2017. 

Their children and grandchildren would take more of an active role as senior royals as the couple enjoyed their nineties.

On February 6, 2017, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee, and months later on November 20, she was the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.

The church bells of Westminster Abbey rang for three hours in celebration and the couple enjoyed a private dinner at Windsor Castle.

After 73 years of marriage, they remained as committed as the day they met. Quaintly, they were said to still take afternoon tea together every day.

In that famous golden wedding speech in 1997, Elizabeth said: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. But he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.

“I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

He remained at her side for more than 70 years until his death in 2021. It was the longest marriage of any UK monarch.

More on