My husband, Prince Philip, said Queen Elizabeth in her golden wedding speech, “has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.
Partnership with Prince Philip has been one of the great achievements of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
This is the longest royal marriage recorded in history. It is all the more striking because the choice of consort for a female monarch has always been a vexed one.
Altogether it had love, duty, and tradition. It was a genuine romance, but from a girl who was already so well-adapted to her regal role as only to fall in love within a limited gene pool. Philip was the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria and had been partly raised in Britain despite his Greek and Danish titles and his Danish and German blood.
THE FIRST MEETING.
Queen and Prince Philip first met at family occasions when Elizabeth was a child. Then, in 1939, the princess accompanied her parents to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, where Philip was a cadet, helping to entertain the Royal Party. It was after the war that things became serious.
By the time Philip was invited to Balmoral in the summer of 1946, it was clear Elizabeth was in love. She accepted his proposal, though the king’s consent had still to be obtained. King George had doubts about ‘Prince Philip of Greece’.
Princess Elizabeth’s parents asked her to wait some months and took her away on a long South African tour. In July 1947 it was posted from Buckingham Palace. It said that “with the greatest pleasure”, king and queen announced the wedding of their beloved daughter to “Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten”. Who had renounced his nationality, his name, and his Greek Orthodox religion to make this a possibility?
AFTER MARRIAGE LIFE.
The couple’s early years together were eased by the fact that Elizabeth was still only a princess when she wed. Hence, the long spell in Malta the couple were able to enjoy, with her living the comparatively private life of a naval wife. King George’s failing health soon led to Philip’s giving up his naval career. In 1952, news of the king’s early death was arguably a great shock for Elizabeth and for Philip.
At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, Prince Philip was the first to swear allegiance to her. It said that he would be her ‘liege man of life and limb’. But there had always been a debate about his precise titles and place in the royal pecking order.
There would also be other issues. One of them was, what Prince Philip’s role was supposed to be. Before the Queen’s accession, Philip said, whatever they did was done together. And “I suppose I naturally filled the principal position”.
PRINCE PHILIP WITH THE QUEEN.
He cheered and encouraged Queen Elizabeth into undertakings she did not at first find easy. He should perhaps take some share of the credit for the recent resurgence in the popularity of the monarchy. But the bottom line is that he is ‘always on her side, and he’s an unwavering companion’. Of course, the Duke of Edinburgh has not always been viewed so warmly.