Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Together, they are invincible' - Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrate 71st wedding anniversary

Inside the couple's remarkable relationship

Britain's Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, pose during their honeymoon, November 25, 1947 in Broadlands estate, Hampshire. (Photo by - / - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, pose during their honeymoon, November 25, 1947 in Broadlands estate, Hampshire. (Photo by - / - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Karen Birney

Karen Birney

In recent years, all eyes have been on the love lives of the young British royals, but in the midst of all remains a truly inspiring love story: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who are today celebrating 71 years of marriage.

Princess Elizabeth II first met the then Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark at the 1934 wedding of Philip's cousin Princess Marina to Prince George, Duke of Kent, though the queen has admitted that she doesn't remember this encounter so well. They eventually met again in Dartmouth Royal Naval College in 1939, when an18-year-old Philip fittingly captured the future queen's attention by 'jumping over tennis court nets'.

Britiain's Prince Philip (R) takes the hand of Queen Elizabeth II after she addressed politicians at the 'State Opening Of Parliament' in London, 15 November 2006. The British government will publish a long-awaited bill on tackling climate change in the forthcoming session of parliament, Queen Elizabeth II announced Wednesday. One of the key tenets of Prime Minister Tony Blair's final few months in office will therefore involve attempting to set a legacy on slowing global warming -- which his Downing Street office has branded
Britiain's Prince Philip (R) takes the hand of Queen Elizabeth II after she addressed politicians at the 'State Opening Of Parliament' in London, 15 November 2006. The British government will publish a long-awaited bill on tackling climate change in the forthcoming session of parliament, Queen Elizabeth II announced Wednesday. One of the key tenets of Prime Minister Tony Blair's final few months in office will therefore involve attempting to set a legacy on slowing global warming -- which his Downing Street office has branded "the biggest long-term threat that we now face." /WPA POOL/ (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth (R) Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L) walk during their honeymoon in Broadlands estate, Hampshire November 25, 1947. (Photo by - / - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) accompanied by Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) waves to the crowd, June 2, 1953 after being crowned at Westminter Abbey in London. - Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh on the 20th of November 1947 and was proclaimed Queen in 1952 at age 25. Her coronation was the first worldwide televised event. (Photo by - / INTERCONTINENTALE / AFP)

The pair became penpals, and in a letter written to Princess Elizabeth circa 1946, the prince declared his 'complete and unreserved' love for his future wife.

"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." the prince wrote, according to Philip Eade, author of Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life.

The pair became secretly engaged that same year, when Philip asked King George VI for his daughter's hand in marriage.

They wed on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey in London.

Undated picture showing the Royal British couple, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Princess Anne (R), circa 1951. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Undated picture showing the Royal British couple, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Princess Anne (R), circa 1951. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Philip, who is often regarded for his infamous gaffes, jokes and occasional blunders, has been a source of lighthearted relief in the queen's earnest life, which many have credited for their strong, intimate relationship. Indeed on her coronation in 1953, he reportedly turned to her exclaiming 'Where did you get that hat?'

When describing his relationship with his wife on their golden wedding anniversary celebrations in London in 1997, Philip alluded to his often mischievousness and no doubt trying personality when he praised his wife for her 'tolerance', saying for him it was the key to their longevity.

Undated picture showing the Royal British couple, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Princess Anne (R), circa 1951. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Undated picture showing the Royal British couple, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Princess Anne (R), circa 1951. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

"I think the main lesson that we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage," he said on the day.

"It may not be quite so important when things are going well, but it is absolutely vital when the going gets difficult. You can take it from me that the queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.’

US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd-R) greet Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2nd-L) and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, for a reciprocal dinner at the Winfield House in London, on May 25, 2011
US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd-R) greet Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2nd-L) and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, for a reciprocal dinner at the Winfield House in London, on May 25, 2011

For her part, Queen Elizabeth described her husband as her "strength and stay all these years," adding that "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".

And while it may be courtesy to say little about what goes on behind palace doors, some of the couple's closest family members and confidants have shared their candid insights into the pair's relationship over the years.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Prince Philip wave farewell to Australia at Perth International Airport on October 29, 2011. The queen wrapped up an immensely successful tour of Australia in which tens of thousands flocked to catch a glimpse of their monarch, perhaps for the last time. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Paul Kane (Photo credit should read Paul Kane/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Prince Philip wave farewell to Australia at Perth International Airport on October 29, 2011. The queen wrapped up an immensely successful tour of Australia in which tens of thousands flocked to catch a glimpse of their monarch, perhaps for the last time. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Paul Kane (Photo credit should read Paul Kane/AFP/Getty Images)

Newlywed Princess Eugenie, who has described the couple as 'invincible', reflected on how 'difficult' it was for the Queen to attend her Diamond Jubilee celebrations without Philip when he was taken ill days before ("for granny to come and do that alone was probably quite testing. and I think he is her rock, really, and she is his"), while the queen's former private secretary Lord Charteris has in the past described how their is no airs and graces between the pair in their alone time: "Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the Queen simply as another human being."

Indeed the couple's grandson, Britain's Duke of Cambridge reflected on their relationship in 2012, saying "He makes her laugh because some of the things he says and does and the way he looks at life is obviously slightly different than her, so together they’re a great couple."

Time and time again Philip has been referred to as a 'rock' for the queen, and a firm, reliable constant in her unquestionably remarkable life .

Royal biographer Gyles Brandreth described him as 'steadfast' and 'never failingly supportive'.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) talks with Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) as they leave after attending the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. (Photo by Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALASTAIR GRANT/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) talks with Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) as they leave after attending the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. (Photo by Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALASTAIR GRANT/AFP/Getty Images)

"The Queen wears the crown, but her husband wears the trousers," Brandreth wrote in a piece for the Radio Times celebrating the couple's 70th anniversary: "He is the power behind the throne."

However he also added that like most couples, they don't see eye to eye on everything.

"As a couple they are allies, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their differences," but nevertheless "He has been making the Queen laugh for more than 70 years."

Britain's Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip pictured at the Royal Ascot in June 2011
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip pictured at the Royal Ascot in June 2011 (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour parade on June 11, 2011 in London, England. The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is believed to have first been performed during the reign of King Charles II. In 1748, it was decided that the parade would be used to mark the official birthday of the Sovereign. More than 600 guardsmen and cavalry make up the parade, a celebration of the Sovereign's official birthday, although the Queen's actual birthday is on 21 April. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at the first of this year's royal garden parties held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, London on June 29, 2011. AFP PHOTO/POOL/ Stefan Rousseau (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
BRAEMAR, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (C) attend the Braemar Highland Games at The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park on September 3, 2011 in Braemar, Scotland. The Braemar Gathering is the most famous of the Highland Games and is known worldwide. Each year thousands of visitors descend on this small Scottish village on the first Saturday in September to watch one of the more colorful Scottish traditions. The Gathering has a long history and in its modern form it stretches back nearly 200 years. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) chat while seated during a musical performance in the Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds during her Golden Jubilee visit to Suffolk on July 17, 2002. (Photo by Fiona HANSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read FIONA HANSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (C) watches as his wife Britain's Queen Elizabeth II feeds an elephant named 'Donna' after opening the new Centre for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Whipsnade, north of London, on April 11, 2017. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

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