It’s undeniable that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were an iconic couple. Decades of charming photos certainly painted a fairytale to the public. But as easy as they made it look, as royals, it’s not always easy to follow your heart.
Scandals, divorces, and affairs have plagued this British palace for generations. Many pairs split just from the tabloid pressure! Observers all over the world couldn’t help but wonder: What were the secret ingredients of this 70-year love affair?
Raised Worlds Apart, They Both Loved Britain
There was no way around it: Princess Elizabeth Windsor was born with a mission. Third in line to the throne since day one, her dating choices would have restrictions. The love life of a royal could never follow a Hollywood storyline. What sort of fellow was fit for a future queen?
Perhaps Prince Philip, just across the pond. A natural athlete now in the military, he was a very fit royal indeed. Born into a European family with titles in Greece and Denmark, he decided he was actually a fan of the UK. So much so, he joined the Royal Navy at 18. Elizabeth was thrilled to know of him!
Boy Meets Girl, But She Was Too Young
Elizabeth had already met Phillip, long before their official courtship. They had crossed paths in childhood, running in the family circles. But when the thirteen-year-old princess spotted him on a visit to the Royal Naval College, she fell hard. The crush was official, and it wasn’t going away!
As a teen, she started to exchange letters with the young soldier. But did her family really approve of this potential match? Phillip was officially royal, sure. But at the time, he had no financial standing. And worse, he was foreign-born! The story, as it turns out, is a bit more complex.
He Was Fit, and She Definitely Liked That
While her family did have comments on the matter, young Elizabeth was less concerned about the practicalities. Known for his charm, Philip was linked to a variety of prominent women. Money may talk, sometimes. But in this case, they couldn’t help but notice what a strapping athlete he was.
In his youth, Phillip was quite passionate about Cricket. But he was equally interested in polo and became one of the top players of his day. Semi-professional athletes tend to do well, in romance. This case would be no exception.
That Uniform Was Just the Beginning of His Appeal
Sure, the ladies love a jock. But they also love a man in uniform. The princess loved his Viking blue eyes and fair skin, too. In the eyes of the future queen, Phillip had it all. According to her royal governess: “There was a sparkle about her none of us had ever seen before…Many people remarked on it.”
There was plenty of laughter and joking when the princess was around Phillip. And many have noted how much he would make her bush. Very early on, Elizabeth claimed he was the one. Was wealth really a reason to pass up on true love? Maybe not. But the family had other concerns, behind the scenes.
No One Could Deny the Chap Was Charming
According to British diplomat Sir Harold Nicolson: “The family were at first horrified when they saw that Prince Philip was making up to Princess Elizabeth. They felt he was rough, ill-mannered, uneducated and would probably not be faithful.” Yikes!
But first impressions are not always the last. The more the king got to know the young soldier, the more he saw what his daughter admired. In fact, over time, he came to believe Phillip was the king’s type of man. But still, it was odd. Could the princess really marry the first man she met?
He Liked it, Secretly Planned to Put a Ring on it
Elizabeth certainly wasn’t deterred by her inexperience. She knew what she wanted, and continued to build a relationship behind the scenes. One summer, the princess invited Phillip to a family castle estate for three weeks. There, it is said there was a secret proposal. Young love, purely!
Dad wasn’t against it, in the end. But a formal engagement happened a year later, according to the wishes of the king. At that time, Elizabeth received a 3-carat diamond ring, with stones taken from the tiara of Philip’s mother. The wedding was on!
The Royal Wedding Day Was Fit for a Queen
Elizabeth, now 21, and Phillip, 26 wed in 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London. She was the tenth member of her family to choose the spectacular, historical location. 2,000 guests were invited, and many foreign royals attended: The King of Iraq, the Netherlands and Luxembourg royals, and more!
Elizabeth wore a satin bridal gown with star lily and orange blossom accents. Her bouquet was white orchid and myrtle. She did her own makeup, surprisingly! That day, Philip received a new title: The Duke of Edinburgh. How did their marriage go, in the early days?
Young Married Life Gets Off to a Great Start
The honeymoon period is always a happy time. Soon after the wedding, Phillip wrote to his wife’s mother: “My ambition is to weld the two of us into a new combined existence that will not only be able to withstand the shocks directed at us but will also have a positive existence for the good.”
To start things off right, the new duke quit smoking. He was a husband now, after all. Elizabeth wrote a note to his mother, too: “Philip is an angel – he is so kind and thoughtful.’’ It seemed like they had been together for years! What did they do next, as a couple?
Baby Number One Arrives Almost Right Away
The answer, it seems, was Prince Charles. Just around a year after becoming a wife, the princess became a mother. At 22, she had her first son. In those days, royal men did not attend the birth of their children. Phillip followed the tradition and waited outside during labor.
To pass the time, he played a game of squash in the palace with staff. That turned out to be a good move: It was no easy first birth! 30 hours and a C-section later, the King’s Troop Royal Artillery shot a 41 gun salute. Crowds heard the bells of Westminster Abbey ring in the news. A new royal was born!
Lil’ Charles, Then Anne Join the Windsor Clan
But baby Charles wouldn’t be the end of this lovers’ project. Phillip and Elizabeth got busy building their family, right away. The next royal baby would be Princess Anne, delivered during palace renovations at nearby Clarence House. This time, Phil passed the hours with shooting practice, ever the sportsman.
His review? The duke declared: “It’s the sweetest girl.” In love with his wife and enjoying the arrival of his first daughter, things seemed perfect as could be. However, everything was about to change. What happened, right in the toddler years?
Reporting for Duty is Half the Fun of Royal Life
Royal Brits do occasionally have obligations. Just five years into the Windsor marriage, the unthinkable happened. Philip’s military career came to an end. And there could be only one reason. The king had died of cancer at age 56. Elizabeth was next in line to rule!
No one had expected a transition of power so soon. But his brother left his title years ago to marry an American divorcee, and the role fell to his daughter. Phillip became the queen’s royal consort, an advisor and confident walking behind her in public.
The Brood Grows into Four, But Only a Decade Later
Queenly duties were quite an adjustment, for both of them. A decade passed before Elizabeth and Phillip continued having kids. But the 1960s marked a new chapter for the Windsors. First, the arrival of Andrew. Then, Edward joined, too!
The fourth try would be very different than the last three. This time, husband and wife decided to break tradition. Phillip attended the birth, against all precedent. Many men might have been unwilling, during that era. But he wasn’t hiding in the corner. He was right by her side.
Philip Broke Tradition and Stood by His Wife’s Side
It was intense. But despite the pressure of labor, this was a special moment for the royal couple. According to intimate observers, the Duke was holding his wife’s hand as his fourth son entered the world. Why the change of approach?
Author Ingrid Seward explained: “The queen, by then aged 37, had asked him to be there; she’d been keenly reading women’s magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea.” A historical first, to be sure!
Always the Athlete, Sports Continued in Married Life
As family life and love went on, Phillip adjusted to his role as dad and Duke. But that didn’t mean he gave up being a lad. His passion for athletics became a part of his royal persona, especially as he became more involved in Equestrian activities. That’s horse world, for the newbies!
Queen Elizabeth had her own passion for horses, as it turned out. She owned plenty of them on royal estates. And furthermore, she had a passion for Phil! As a couple, they enjoyed sharing this interest, over the years. The couple that plays together, stays together, as they say.
Just Horsin’ Around, the Couple Loved Equestrian Vibes
Elizabeth had many horses in competition around the globe, and Phillip cheered them on. According to the royal racing advisor: “[Phillip] became a rather animated ‘armchair jockey’ with great knowledge when watching some of the queen’s horses running on television.”
As a married couple, there were big trips to pursue this pastime. From the Kentucky Derby to stallions in the French countryside, it was a pleasure to explore the equestrian world. But the travel didn’t stop there. These lovers were true jet setters, long before Instagram.
Adventures in Africa Were Just the Beginning
Palace life is said to be suffocating, at times. Luckily, Queen Elizabeth and her husband often went on expeditions for the Commonwealth. The couple took on major tours of the world: Romantic excursions all over Africa and the Caribbean islands were a great way to keep things fresh!
Africa had a special place in their history. Then still a princess, Elizabeth learned of her father’s passing while she was with Phillip in Kenya. But this sad association never kept them away. Over the years, they toured Ghana, Uganda, and more. Royal safaris made exceptional vacations!
That Historic Trip to China Made For Great Photos
Former colonies were fun. But Queen Elizabeth stepped out of the box when she traveled to mainland China. It was the first royal visit in history, and as usual, her beloved Phil was along for the ride. Prime Minister Thatcher signed a new treaty, and the kingdom had to send its very best!
The UK had long been an ally of semi-autonomous Hong Kong. But that was a different story. Now, the queen of England was pictured on the Great Wall itself, in front of the world. This marked a new era of international relations. And an unforgettable trip for Elizabeth and Phillip, too!
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun With Family
As Elizabeth and Phillip grew older, so did their family. Prince Charles was closer to his mother, as he matured. Princess Anne became a lover of sports and spent more time with dad. The public followed their lives in the tabloids, along the way. Was it really so picture-perfect?
The queen once admitted: “
Like all best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.” But the Windsor parents had plenty of leisure venues, to blow off steam. Where was one of their best escapes?
A Secret Escape to Scotland Was Always a Hit
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh loved to get away, from time to time. A favorite castle was Balmoral estate in Scotland, which included a garden and a farm. Secretly, it was a place where this married couple could simply be themselves. It was a place to be normal people, or at least pretend.
According to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, this was a place where Her Majesty cleared the table herself: “You think I’m joking, but I’m not. They put the gloves on and stick their hands in the sink. The queen asks if you’ve finished, she stacks the plates up and goes off to the sink.” Pretty wild, right?
Taking Care of Business, Phillip Often Assisted
Back at the palace, there was a lot of formality to sort out. When the queen spoke, it had to be perfect. And sometimes, yes-men are a mistake. As a caring husband and a public servant, Phillip always contributed his insights. Elizabeth trusted him more than anyone to give her a real critique.
The queen shared: “All too often, I fear, Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking. Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.” Tough love is the best love, sometimes.
Prince Charming Was There to Dance the Nights Away
There are many theories on why this royal love lasted as long as it did. More than 70 years cannot be a coincidence! Phillip seemed to strike the right balance, all the time. His best move sounds simple, but made all the difference behind the scenes: Being treated as a woman as well as a queen!
The aristocrat Lord Charteris once explained: “Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the queen simply as another human being. He’s the only man who can. Strange as it may seem, I believe she values that.” Never neglecting her soul, Phillip had her heart.
A Love that Lasted, Beyond all Modern Expectations
Newsflash: It’s not easy for British royals to find a suitable match. Life in this family is more than just glam and glitter. Famously, grandson Prince Harry failed to seal the deal with longtime lover Chelsy Davy. After five years, she just didn’t want real palace duty.
But Phillip was made of the right stuff. The queen explained: “Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.” How else did he support her, emotionally?
Prince Phillip Was there Rain or Shine, Without Complaint
No matter the struggle, Phillip was right by his wife’s side. He was always seen walking behind her as a royal courtesy to the real monarch. And when it sprinkled, he had an umbrella ready. With her extensive, fancy hat collection, rain was a ridiculous risk!
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex described his manners: “You see, he’s a gentleman and a gentleman, he’s very courteous, and he looks up for [the queen] and he’s her protector…He has been a fantastic life partner for her.” There was no doubt about it, for the inner circle.
A True Gentleman Served the British Queen
On occasion, scandals plagued the Windsors. And with an aggressive British tabloid culture, things were not always as smooth as the PR unit hoped. The devastating death of Princess Diana, for example, posed a real challenge to this stiff upper lip family. For the queen, Phillip’s love and devotion was essential.
According to Elizabeth: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.” The real details remain private. Who really knew the both of them?
The Grandkids Were a Big Deal, For These Two
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh might have shown their true selves to a few. Or maybe, more than a few! With four children of their own, there were a lot of grandchildren — and great-grandchildren — arriving. A new way to share their lifelong love, as a living lesson.
Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Princess Anne created a new generation of eight. Those eight had ten more! With such a large brood, it might seem Phillip and Elizabeth had time for little else. But no! Their adventures continued, long into the golden years. What else did they focus on, at this stage?
A Changing World Didn’t Scare These Two
Despite their advanced age, numbering almost 200 years between them, the duke and queen never lost interest in the changing world. Brits were delighted to see them don 3D goggles during a visit to the University of Sheffield. Staff shared a futuristic display with them, in super high tech!
As a team, they nurtured each other’s intellectual curiosity. It seemed they could handle any public visit with grace, even if it was entirely new to them. In the later years, they visited novelties all over England. But their trips abroad continued too, as lifelong globetrotters!
A Trip to the Outback Was Always a Treat
Abroad, they continued their representation for the state, revisiting the commonwealth and maintaining connections. Even faraway Australia wasn’t neglected. Despite the long plane ride from London, the pair continued to love the continent, with all its quirks.
They shared so many memories together in Aussie land. In the 50s, crocodile hunting, the Olympic games, and industrial tours. In the 80s, the opening of the new Parliament House and shopping for indigenous Australian art. There was always more to see and do, down under.
They Sure Loved a Good Day at the Zoo
Of course, long trips were punctuated by short ones. There was plenty to do locally: Royal fans may remember when Phillip accompanied Elizabeth to the Whipsnade Zoo. The trip honored the opening of a new exhibit, and their presence was their endorsement. While on-site, they even got hands-on and fed elephants bananas.
All his life, especially since his commonwealth tour of Africa with a young Elizabeth, Phillip had been an advocate for endangered species. It was a no-brainer to spend time with these animals, right in England. But despite the vigor he still displayed in public, this would be one of the Duke’s last royal events.
A Real, Regal Romance for Seven Decades Ends
All good things come to a close, it seems. At age 99, Phillip passed away. At the end of his life, he was a man who had more than 70 years of married experience. Perhaps he knew the real secret to lasting love. What was his theory about it?
During a toast at their golden wedding anniversary, Phillip declared: “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.” Tips from a pro, indeed.