We celebrate the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s 70th anniversary
Ian Lloyd celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
THE Queen and Prince Philip both hate a fuss. Neither of them has ever really wanted to mark landmark birthdays such as Her Majesty’s 90th last year.
Wedding anniversaries are the same. On November 20 they will have been married for 70 years, but they won’t be attending a Thanksgiving Service at Westminster Abbey as they have for their Golden and Diamond anniversaries.
Instead, the couple will mark this milestone with a dinner party for family and friends, with possibly a low-key religious service as well.
The couple feel they can’t top the national celebrations for their 50th and 60th landmark occasions. This year they will do what they like to do best and celebrate in private.
Probably their happiest anniversaries were their second and third ones which occurred when Philip was stationed in Malta with the fleet and Elizabeth flew out to join him.
Here she was just a typical officer’s wife and was able to go out shopping, drive their new Riley herself and pop in to the local salon to have her hair done.
The princess was based at the Villa Guardamangia, a grand sandstone house surrounded by orange trees, which belonged to Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten.
The locals left them in peace and so they could celebrate their wedding anniversaries, like any other couple, with a meal in a local restaurant.
This romantic period came to an abrupt end in 1951 when the King’s worsening health meant that Philip had to leave the Royal Navy. The following February Elizabeth became queen at the age of only twenty-five.
The pressure of work meant that it wasn’t always easy to escape for a break, but their wedding anniversary was always a red-letter day.
They would often spend it at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire. Now a luxury hotel, the estate used to belong to Sir Harold Wernher and his wife, Zia.
Lady Wernher was the daughter of the Grand Duke Michael of Russia and her sister Nadejda married Prince Philip’s uncle George, Marquess of Milford Haven.
A romantic dinner party at Luton Hoo away from courtiers, family and the media, was a highlight of the year.
On their first visit, Philip gave his young wife a gold bracelet made up of the letters E and P interlaced and featuring his naval badge set in diamonds. What is touching about this gift is that he designed it himself and had it made by Boucheron.
Their 25th wedding anniversary in 1972 was celebrated at Westminster Abbey where they married in 1947. It is best remembered for the Queen’s speech afterwards at the Guildhall when she joked it was surely the one occasion she could begin with the words, “My husband and I.”
One wedding anniversary she would want to forget is her 45th on November 20, 1992, which is the day that Windsor Castle suffered a devastating fire. Her Majesty hurried from London to see for herself the flames ravaging her favourite home.
The Golden Wedding anniversary in 1997 came less than three months after the death of Princess Diana.
The monarchy had been in crisis that autumn as people criticised the Queen for not returning to London to mourn with her people.
She relied more than ever on Prince Philip to see her through the crisis.
It was at a celebratory lunch hosted by Tony Blair that Elizabeth made her most touching public tribute to her husband to date.
“All too often, I fear,” she said, looking visibly moved, “Prince Philip has had to listen to me speaking.
“Frequently we have discussed my intended speech beforehand and, as you will imagine, his views have been expressed in a forthright manner.
“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but 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.”
It’s a sentiment the Queen will no doubt be feeling this month, as a loving wife to the man who has been by her side, through good times and bad, for the past 70 years. n
Anniversaries have always been grand affairs for the couple, but this year’s will be more relaxed.