When the Queen met Prince Philip: A royal love story in their own words

12 April 2021, 13:12 | Updated: 12 April 2021, 13:40

The 73-year love story of Prince Philip and Her Majesty The Queen is one that will be remembered forever. Pictured left, in 1947 and right, in 2007.
The 73-year love story of Prince Philip and Her Majesty The Queen is one that will be remembered forever. Pictured left, in 1947 and right, in 2007. Picture: Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

Following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh the nation mourns the partner of Queen Elizabeth II and brings to an end one of the most enduring royal love stories of all time.

The 73-year love story of Prince Philip and Her Majesty The Queen is one that will be remembered forever.

On the morning of April 9, 2021 the royal family announced Prince Philip had passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle, and upon the announcement one of the most important love stories of the 20th and 21st centuries, came to an end.

Through thick and thin, the royal pair have been by side-by-side in service to the country and to one another, and yet little is known about the pair's affection and the secret to their marriage spanning over seven decades.

Here we bring you the Philip and Elizabeth's relationship – and their secrets to a happy marriage – in their own words:

Philip was away fighting in the Second World War, yet the pair's love endured and their engagement was announced in July 1947 (pictured).
Philip was away fighting in the Second World War, yet the pair's love endured and their engagement was announced in July 1947 (pictured). Picture: Getty
The pair were married at Westminster on November 20, 1947, pictured.
The pair were married at Westminster on November 20, 1947, pictured. Picture: Getty
The royal pair pictured during a walk on their honeymoon in Broadlands, Hampshire in 1947.
The royal pair pictured during a walk on their honeymoon in Broadlands, Hampshire in 1947. Picture: Getty

The dashing Prince Philip and a young Princess Elizabeth first met at a family wedding and then five years later, when she was 13 and he was 18, during a visit to Dartmouth Naval College in 1939.

It was reported that Princess Elizabeth was immediately smitten with the Corfu-born Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark, as he was then known and had eyes for no one else.

See more: Unseen private scenes of a young Queen and Prince Philip larking around in home video footage

"I've got letters from her saying, 'It's so exciting. Mummy says that Philip can come and stay,'" says the Queen's cousin Margaret Rhodes, adding: "She was truly in love from the very beginning."

Philip was away fighting in the Second World War, yet the pair's love endured and their engagement was announced in July 1947.

Newlyweds Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh share a laugh at the Royal Horse Show at Windsor, 12th May 1949.
Newlyweds Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh share a laugh at the Royal Horse Show at Windsor, 12th May 1949. Picture: Getty
Elizabeth and Philip and Prince Charles and Princess Anne, August 1951.
Elizabeth and Philip and Prince Charles and Princess Anne, August 1951. Picture: Getty

Prince Philip also expressed his affection for the future Queen during their engagement and in a letter to his mother-in-law, wrote "Cherish Lilibet? I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me."

According to the book Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life, Prince Philip wrote a letter to Princess Elizabeth in c.1947, declaring: "I am sure that I do not deserve all the good things that have happened to me…To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one's personal and even the world's troubles seem small and petty."

See more: When the Queen and Kate Middleton shared their first joint engagement - see the pictures

The pair were married on November 20, 1947 and went on honeymoon first to Broadlands in Hampshire, the home of Philip's uncle, Earl Mountbatten and the rest of their honeymoon was spent at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate.

After the wedding the Princess described her husband in letters to family members as "an angel" and "the best and nicest man in the world".

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during their visit to the Province of Quebec, Canada, June 1959.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during their visit to the Province of Quebec, Canada, June 1959. Picture: Getty
The Queen and Prince Philip chat during a visit to Vukuzakhe High School in Durban, South Africa on March 23, 1995.
The Queen and Prince Philip chat during a visit to Vukuzakhe High School in Durban, South Africa on March 23, 1995. Picture: Getty
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip leave after attending The Queen's Party of Thanks at the Ritz Hotel November 14, 2002 in London.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip leave after attending The Queen's Party of Thanks at the Ritz Hotel November 14, 2002 in London. Picture: Getty

Just a few short years later after the untimely death of Elizabeth's father, the Princess was crowned Queen on June 2, 1953, with the strength and support of her Prince by her side.

“In the world that they were in, it was almost back to front. The Queen was taking on her role in a man’s world," said Prince William at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. "The Duke of Edinburgh was taking on the role of consort as a very successful naval commander – and would have been an even bigger one."

See more: The Queen is taught to use Zoom by Princess Anne in adorable behind-the-scenes video

"Yet both of them carved their own paths and have done that ever since, to brilliant standards. Together, they’re a very good team.” 

The couple went on to have four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and in turn eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive at St Paul's Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving held in honour of the Queen's 80th birthday, June 15, 2006
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive at St Paul's Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving held in honour of the Queen's 80th birthday, June 15, 2006. Picture: Getty
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh re-visit Broadlands, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary on November 20.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh re-visit Broadlands, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary on November 20. Picture: Getty
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh feed bananas to Donna, a 7 year old Asian Elephant, as they open the new Centre for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on April 11, 2017.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh feed bananas to Donna, a 7 year old Asian Elephant, as they open the new Centre for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on April 11, 2017. Picture: Getty
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attend the annual Braemer Highland Games on September 7, 2013 in Braemar, Scotland.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attend the annual Braemer Highland Games on September 7, 2013 in Braemar, Scotland. Picture: Getty

In 1972, The Queen gave her thoughts 25 years of marriage: "If I am asked what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can answer with equal simplicity and conviction, I am for it."

See more: Prince Charles at 70: His life in pictures

On the night of her 50th wedding anniversary celebrations in 1997, the Queen made a speech at London’s Banqueting House and turned to speak to Prince Philip with uncharacteristic emotion: "All too often, I fear, Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking," she began.

"Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.

"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."

See more: The Queen's great-grandchildren: how many are there and how old are they?

At another event to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, the Prince made a declaration of his own, saying in a toast in November 2017, "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."

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip share a laugh at Windsor Castle in April 2014.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip share a laugh at Windsor Castle in April 2014. Picture: Getty
Prince Philip holds the hand of his wife Queen Elizabeth as they attend the State Opening of Parliament on December 3, 2008.
Prince Philip holds the hand of his wife Queen Elizabeth as they attend the State Opening of Parliament on December 3, 2008. Picture: Getty

For their most recent milestone in 2017 the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, which marked their platinum anniversary, with a private black-tie dinner attended by friends and family at Windsor Castle.

"I would love to know their secret," Prince William said during the celebrations. "They are the most lovely couple, and I hope Catherine and I have that sort of future ahead of us."

See more: Prince William helps Princess Diana with makeup in heartwarming unearthed video from 1985

"They are the most incredibly supportive couple to each other," Princess Eugenie said in 2012. "I think he is her rock really and she is his."

Perhaps the Queen's former private secretary, Lord Charteris, encapsulated it best: “Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the Queen simply as another human being," he once said. "He’s the only man who can."