A look back at the remarkable love story of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip: “The only man I could ever love”

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Queen Elizabeth II spent her entire 70-year reign at the helm of Britain’s royal family with her long-time love Prince Philip by her side. Their story began when they were just children and lasted until April 9, 2021, the day Philip died.   

Here’s a look back at the couple’s remarkable royal love story. 

The wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.
Photograph of the wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968). Also pictured is Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George (1895-1952) and Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974). Dated 20th Century. Queen Elizabeth II can be seen in the bottom right of the photo. 

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


First meeting

The first time Elizabeth and Philip crossed paths was at the 1934 wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark and Prince George, Duke of Kent. Philip was 13 and Elizabeth was just eight years old. At that point, she was not in line to ever inherit the throne. She only became the heir at the age of 10, when her uncle Edward VIII, who would have been king, abdicated to pursue his own love story. 

The two young royals were third-cousins, through their relations to Queen Victoria. 

Navy Chapel
Princess Elizabeth (third from left), with King George VI (1895 – 1952), Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900 – 1979, standing, third from right) and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900 – 2002) during a visit to the chapel at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, 23rd July 1939. Also present is naval cadet Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, standing, second from right).

A. J. O’Brien/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


They met again in 1939 — this time when Philip, then 18 and a Navy officer cadet, helped escort a 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth around Dartmouth’s Royal Navy College, according to author and historian Tina Brown. It was at this meeting, Brown said, where their love story truly began. 

Following that encounter, Elizabeth told her father King George VI that Philip was, “the only man I could ever love,” according to The New York Times

Royal Engagement
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and her fiance, Philip Mountbatten at Buckingham Palace, after their engagement was announced, 10th July 1947.

Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


A royal wedding

The couple was engaged just eight years later, with an official announcement made on July 9, 1947, according to the royal family’s website. According to Brown, he proposed to her at Balmoral Castle — the same royal estate in Scotland where the queen died on Thursday. The ring included diamonds from a tiara that belonged to his mother.

The royal family was not sure of their match at the beginning, Brown said, as Philip, born in Greece, had what the family has described as a “turbulent” childhood. He and his parents — Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg — were exiled when Andrew was accused of treason. Philip was just 18 months old when his family left Greece. 

Wedded Royals
20th November 1947: Princess Elizabeth, and The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace after their wedding.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images


But the royal family clearly came around, because just four months later, a royal wedding was held on November 20, 1947, at London’s Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth was the 10th member of the royal family to be wed at the iconic church, although hers would make history as the first to ever be televised.


Elizabeth And Philip Wedding (1947) by
British Pathé on
YouTube

It was a spectacle for a new, global audience. 

Elizabeth’s dress was designed especially for the occasion, but because of ongoing World War II rationing measures, she had to use clothing ration coupons to pay for it. The satin dress was embroidered in crystals and 10,000 pearls imported from the U.S. and had a 15-foot silk tulle train. 

The extravagant wedding also saw a nine-foot-high cake, 2,500 gifts — including one from India’s paragon of democracy and peaceful protest Mahatma Gandhi. 

Immediately after the ceremony, then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, now the Duke of Edinburgh, went to Buckingham Palace, where they stood on the balcony to wave to thousands of people who had crowded the area to celebrate the official start of their life together. 

The couple then set off for a honeymoon in Hampshire, England, and at the Balmoral estate, all alongside Elizabeth’s beloved corgi, Susan. 

Royalty - Infant Prince Charles - Windlesham Moor
These pictures of eight year old Prince Charles and his Royal parents – Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh – are the most informal ever taken of the baby Prince and his youthful mother and father. These pictures are from a film made for the British Newsreels Association in the grounds of Windlesham Moor, country home in Surrey of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke. 

PA Images via Getty Images


Family matters 

It wasn’t long before Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip assured new successors in the royal line. 

In November 1948, just days before their first anniversary, Elizabeth gave birth to her first son Charles. 

Charles went on to famously wed, and then divorce, the late Princess Diana, and eventually married Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005. Upon Elizabeth’s death on Thursday, Charles automatically ascended to the throne to become King Charles III. 

Royal Family
Princess Elizabeth with her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and their children Prince Charles and Princess Anne, August 1951.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


The couple had their second child and only daughter, Anne, in 1950. She was known as Princess Anne until June 1987, when the queen gave her the title of The Princess Royal. Anne married her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, in 1973, and was among the first of her three siblings to get divorced, with the separation finalized in 1992. She remarried that same year. 

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their children Princess Anne, Prince Charles (
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their children Princess Anne, Prince Charles (right) and Prince Andrew on his first holiday to Balmoral. 8th September 1960.

NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images


Following her coronation in 1953, Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in 1960. 

Andrew has been widely criticized in recent years for his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, and has been accused by Virginia Roberts Giuffre of sexually abusing her when she was 17. The prince has always denied the allegations, but he and Giuffre reached an out-of-court settlement earlier this year.

Buckingham Palace then announced that Andrew’s military affiliations and royal patronages had been revoked. He has not been permitted to conduct public duties on behalf of the royal family since 2019. 

Royal Walk
31st October 1979: Members of the British Monarchy walking their dogs in a wood (left to right); The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Peter Phillips holding his mother’s hand.

Central Press/Getty Images


Elizabeth and Philip’s fourth and final child, Edward, was born in 1964. He was known as Prince Edward until he married his wife Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, at which point they were named the Earl and Countess of Wessex. 

He is so far the only of Elizabeth and Philip’s children to not get a divorce. 

Queen Elizabeth Ii And The Duke Of Edinburgh On Their Coronation Day
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on the day of their coronation, Buckingham Palace, 1953. (Colorised black and white print). 

The Print Collector/Getty Images


Taking the throne 

Elizabeth became the queen immediately upon the death of her father, King George VI, in February 1952.

Prince Philip stood by Elizabeth’s side throughout her coronation ceremony in June the next year. 

“I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship… so help me God,” he swore to Elizabeth as he knelt at her feet, according to Brown, the royal historian. 

Queen Elizabeth II Launches The Baton Relay For 2014 Commonwealth Games
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the launch of the Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace on October 9, 2013 in London, England. Following the launch, the baton relay will continue it’s journey visiting all 70 competing nations and territories ahead of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images


A life of love and laughter

Brown told CBS News on Thursday that over the course of their marriage – the longest in British royal history – Philip was known for keeping the queen steady, happy and laughing. 

“Philip kept the queen real, that’s why she loved him so,” Brown said. “He had a strong sense of humor. He was incredibly irreverent. He always made her laugh and he always told her the truth, and that is what she loved about him.” 

On November 20, 1997, to mark their 50th anniversary, Queen Elizabeth II said of her husband: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but 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.” 

Royal Barn Dance
The Duke of Edinburgh dances with his wife, Princess Elizabeth, at a square dance held in their honour in Ottawa, by Governor General Viscount Alexander, 17th October 1951. The dance was one of the events arranged during their Canadian tour.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


In 2017, the couple became the first in the royal family to celebrate their platinum anniversary – 70 years of marriage. Since making their vows decades earlier, their family had grown to include eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren

Queen & Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Wedding Anniversary
In this image, made available November 18, 2007, HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh re-visit Broadlands, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary on November 20. The royals spent their wedding night at Broadlands in Hampshire in November 1947, the former home of Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten. 

Tim Graham


A final goodbye

The Duke of Edinburgh died in April 2021 at 99 years old, just seven months short of what would have been his and Elizabeth’s 74th anniversary.   

Philip spent much of his final months in isolation with the queen at Windsor Castle, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world. In one of their final major acts together, the couple got vaccinated against COVID-19 in January 2021. 

At his funeral, a solemn queen sat alone in the pews as her beloved husband was memorialized. 

The Funeral Of Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh Is Held In Windsor
Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. 

Jonathan Brady – WPA Pool/Getty Images)


Brown said that in the final year of Philip’s life, he and the queen “spent together more time than they’ve ever spent in their entire life, because they were locked down together at Windsor Castle in their bubble.” 

“It was almost like sort of the beginning of their courtship, when they had this kind of wonderful, sort of intimate, last days together there,” Brown said, calling it an “unexpected blessing.” 

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