On 20th November 2017, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip celebrated 70 years of marriage, marking an important milestone not just in their own enduring love story but also in the nation’s history: their partnership is the longest (and perhaps the strongest) in the annals of Britain’s royal family.
Royal protocol is such that it’s rare to hear the royal couple singing each other’s praises in public – meaning that when we do, it’s all the more heart-warming. In a speech to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary back in 1997, the Queen famously referred to her consort as her ‘strength and stay’ all these years; 15 years later, addressing Parliament on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, she returned to the same sentiment. ‘During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure,’ she said. ‘Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout [my reign] he has been a constant strength and guide.’
The pair (who are second cousins once removed) first met at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (Philip’s cousin) and Prince George, Duke of Kent (Elizabeth’s uncle) back in 1934, then again when Philip took on guide duties during a royal tour of the Naval College at Dartmouth. They struck up a correspondence through letters, and according to Elizabeth’s cousin and close friend Margaret Rhodes, the then-Princess was steadfast in her affections, having ‘never looked at anyone else.’
Without initially seeking permission from their parents, the pair became engaged in 1946. When Philip eventually ceded to tradition and asked King George VI for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, his request was accepted – on the condition that a formal engagement announcement would take place later, following Elizabeth’s 21st birthday the next year. Elizabeth’s courtiers, however, were not initially won over by the match, viewing the ‘penniless’ naval officer as an unsuitable match for a Queen-in-waiting.
After announcing the happy news on 9th July 1947, the pair were wed at Westminster Abbey on 20th November, in a ceremony that was broadcast to around 200 million people around the world. The then-Princess Elizabeth wore a dress by court couturier Norman Hartnell (paid for – like any other bride – using the ration coupons that were still in use in the aftermath of World War II); like her future granddaughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, she did her own make-up for the occasion.
Below, you'll find 50 heart-warming archive photos from the earlier stages of their marriage...
The couple officially announce their engagement at Buckingham Palace, July 1947