The Princess of York and the then Prince of Denmark and Greece met in 1934, at the wedding of a cousin of Philip’s, when Elizabeth was still a child and her future husband had just entered puberty.
Distant cousins (both were great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria), the two would still meet sporadically over the years on occasions promoted by mutual acquaintances.
The final meeting took place in 1939, when King George VI and the Queen Mother decided to take their daughters on an official visit to the Royal Naval College, an institution for training officers of the British Navy. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle and a high-ranking officer, was to accompany their Majesties.
To then keep company with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, he would suggest his nephew, who was starting his military service. At the time, the future queen was still 13; the prince had just turned 18.
From that meeting, the two began to exchange affectionate letters. Also according to biographer Gyles Brandreth, author of “Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage”, the future couple fell in love that same summer. In another, seven years later, the prince asked for the princess’s hand in marriage.
Royal weddings had to be, first and foremost, convenient. The groom’s family was the opposite: the mother struggled with schizophrenia, the sisters were married to Nazi officials, the father was absent, and their royal house had become obsolete. Still, Elizabeth made herself heard, even before taking the throne. King George agreed to the marriage, but made Philip wait a year for his daughter’s hand. Elizabeth was still 20 years old and, in accordance with her father’s wishes, she could not be engaged until she was 21.
The marriage of the two, however, had already been taken for granted five years before. In 1941, Sir Henry Channon, famous British Conservative politician, wrote that “Philip will be our Prince Consort”. On July 9, 1947, the official announcement was made and the groom offered her a 3-carat diamond ring, with a center stone and 10 smaller diamonds around it, that belonged to a tiara of the prince’s mother, Princess Alice. from Battenberg.
In the weeks leading up to the union, the prince relinquished his titles in Denmark and Greece, as well as officially leaving the Greek Orthodox Church and converting to Anglicanism, a religion he had practiced since moving to the UK. The couple walked down the aisle on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony attended by 200 million people worldwide.
From the union that lasted 73 years and gave them four children, Philip emerged Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. The heir to the throne became, at that time, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh. For the first few years they took up official residence at Clarence House in London, but were divided between England and Malta, where Philip served in the British Navy.