ELIZABETH AND PHILIP: 70TH ANNIVERSARY
THEIR 70TH ANNIVERSARY The future Queen was just 13 when she fell head-over-heels for the handsome Navy cadet— and they have been inseparable ever since
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrate a marriage milestone.
On a warm English summer day earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove to the magnificent Cumberland Lodge, a few kilometres from their home at Windsor Castle for a pre-lunch appointment with dear friends. Moving comfortably between the assembled guests, the pair showcased the effortless chemistry they have honed throughout 70 years of marriage. Straight-talking, quip-dropping Philip, 96—who had announced his retirement from public duties in May— “was as jovial and switched on as ever,” says an attendee, while Elizabeth, 91, reigned over the gathering with ease. “Part of the reason she keeps going so steadily is that she has him there beside her,” says the guest. “They’re a great team, and that’s still the case.”
With their landmark platinum wedding anniversary on Nov. 20, the couple’s extraordinary partnership remains unwavering, even as they face the losses and demands that accompany the twilight of life. Yes, they are slowing down and relinquishing many of their long-held duties, but they are hardly stepping away. “They are finding their own pace,” says a former household staffer.
As for marking their anniversary, they will likely enjoy a quiet family celebration. “She doesn’t want to be showy,” says the former staffer. “They just want to be private about it.”
Of course, their love story began
on the most public of stages. The thenPrincess Elizabeth was just 13 when she met Philip, a dashing 18-year-old Royal Navy Cadet with “piercing blue eyes,” as Elizabeth’s governess later described him. For young Lilibet, as her family called her then, it was love at first sight. “She never looked at anyone else,” her cousin Margaret Rhodes later said.
The couple’s wedding on Nov. 20, 1947, was the first grand public event in Britain since the end of WWII (see box). The newlyweds had just welcomed son Charles and daughter Anne when Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died in 1952, thrusting his elder daughter into the role she would occupy for the rest of her long life: Queen. Her accession, in turn, pushed her husband into a role he had never previously played: second fiddle. As the Queen’s “consort,” he adapted—at times, grudgingly—to occupying a public place a few steps behind his wife. Elizabeth herself pained her husband when she sided with then-prime Minister Winston Churchill that their children—who would later include sons Andrew, born in 1960, and Edward, born in 1964—should bear her family name, Windsor, rather than Philip’s, Mountbatten. “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba,” he reportedly railed.
Rumours of a wandering eye long dogged Philip, with the couple often spending time apart. “There was his polo and carriage driving for decades, when he would quite regularly be away for the weekend,” says historian Robert Lacey, a consultant on Netflix’s hit The Crown, while noting, “He was always staying in the home of mutual friends. The Queen’s friends are solid, moral people, and I don’t think there was any suggestion that friends were turning a blind eye to things that the Queen wouldn’t approve.”
Insiders say that Philip’s bold confidence has long balanced his wife’s more reticent style. “Because of the Queen’s slightly shy personality, combined with the solemnity of her office as head of state, people are quite overawed,” says the former staffer. “It’s very often Prince Philip’s wry remark that breaks the ice and gets everyone going. As a team, they are faultless.” Others have said that while the
THEN & NOW The couple revisited Broadlands, an estate in the English countryside, 60 years after their 1947 honeymoon in the same spot (inset, above left).
Young love made official: the couple’s 1947 engagement portrait. The early parenting years, with Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1950. At Balmoral in 1972 with all four kids (from left): Edward, Andrew, Anne and Charles.
“Within the marriage, [Philip] was in charge of virtually everything” —Crown historian Robert Lacey