The Truth About The First Time Queen Elizabeth Met Prince Philip

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have been together for the better part of a century. Their enduring devotion to each other has been an inspiration for decades, and it all started with a memorable first encounter.

Queen Elizabeth was just 13 years old when she first met the man who would become her husband. It was 1939, and the then-princess was accompanying her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, on a trip to Britannia Royal Naval College. The young Prince Philip, then 18 years old and a cadet at the school, was assigned with keeping the young princess and her sister, Princess Margaret, entertained. The young royal was quickly smitten.

"It was shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War," royal historian Christopher Warwick explained to Vanity Fair. "There had been an outbreak of measles or chickenpox at the Royal Naval College, so Philip had been delegated to look after them and play games with Elizabeth and Margaret. And when he got tired of playing train sets with them, it's famously known that he said, 'Let's go and jump the nets on the tennis courts.' And Princess Elizabeth was just overwhelmed [by Philip], really. Her governess, Marion Crawford, recorded that Elizabeth said, 'See how he jumps.'"

The relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip blossomed slowly

Romance didn't bloom yet, as Queen Elizabeth was still quite young and Prince Philip had "girlfriends of his own," but he did strike up a friendship with the future queen. The two maintained a correspondence with each other, and occasionally ran into each other as Prince Philip — a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth through Queen Victoria — would stay at Windsor Castle when on leave from the Royal Navy during World War II. "So he would see a lot of Princess Elizabeth when he was on leave," said Warwick. "But otherwise, we're told that they had a cousinly correspondence."

Warwick added that members of the royal family were hopeful that something more would come from the friendship. Prince Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten, reportedly spoke about it so much that King George VI said, "'She's much too young. If it's going to happen, let it happen naturally."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are still going strong

The pair did eventually fall in love, and married in 1947. Warwick noted that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are the longest-married royal couple in the history of Britain. "The very fact that they've been married now for 73 years speaks volumes," said Warwick, saying that their relationship "has withstood the test of time primarily because they love one another very much."

Warwick added, "It's a very symbiotic relationship and a very firm partnership, starting off, of course, with these early meetings, this early correspondence — which became a friendship, which became affection, which became love."