The fairytale romance of Prince William and Kate Middleton, that is fast becoming a global sensation, is big news. So much so that it has eclipsed another royal love story, that of his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and her consort Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The couple, who just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this past Saturday, has been together, happily married since 1947.
It was a different time and different world when Elizabeth first met Phillip, then a part of the Greek and Danish royal families, when she was just 13 years old. Claiming love at first sight, Elizabeth corresponded to Phillip through letters over the life-altering, world changing years of WWII.
In 1939, during the onset of the war, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were moved to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, only 14 years old at the time, and then moved to Norfolk for their safety. However, by the time she was 16, Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and today is the last surviving head of state to serve in World War II.
All the while, her and Phillip kept in contact, and following the war, when Elizabeth was only 20 years old, Phillip asked her father, the King, for her hand in marriage. Although initially concerned about her young age, the King eventually relented, provided they wait until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday. In agreement, Phillip took the time to renounce his Greek and Danish royal titles, as well as his allegiance to the Greek crown, convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and become a naturalized British subject.
Elizabeth’s engagement ring was a three stone diamond ring, with a square cut center stone and matching, smaller side stones set in platinum; all three diamonds came from Phillip’s mother’s tiara.
The wedding, which took place on November 20, 1947, was a simple affair, by royal standards, due to the country’s recovery from the war. And like all other girls at that time, Elizabeth saved up ration cards, or clothing coupons, to obtain the material for her dress.
The couple was married in Westminster Abbey, the last royal couple to do so, although rumors are swirling that her grandson and second in line for the throne, Prince William and fiancé Kate Middleton will be holding their ceremony there, as opposed to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where his parents, Charles and Diana exchanged wedding rings.
Elizabeth and Phillip received 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world and 10,000 congratulatory emails, and the 2,000 guests in attendance followed up their ceremony with a reception in Buckingham palace. A nine foot, four tiered wedding cake was cut using The Duke’s Mountbatten sword, and the pieces distributed to schoolchildren and institutions.
The couple has had four children, including Prince Charles, the heir to the British royal crown during their 63 years together, in which time they are rarely apart.
In a book cataloging the Queen’s reign, which is often characterized and criticized for her moments of cold adherence to tradition, author William Shawcross documents their relationship. “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. But he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” the Queen is quoted, speaking warmly of Phillip. “And I and his whole family, in this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”