The Story Of Queen Elizabeth II And Prince Philip's Relationship

Prince Philip's death in 2021, though sad, didn't come as a much of a shock — he was 99 years old and had been in and out of hospital for the past few months. However, many people were moved by the death because of what it meant for his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. Philip and Elizabeth had been married for a staggering 73 years — as the BBC's royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell put it, "a bigger span of years than most of us can imagine." It is almost impossible to imagine losing someone who has been with you for so long.

Luckily, Elizabeth and Philip's long marriage was, for the most part, a happy and successful one. After meeting when Elizabeth was just a child, the pair later had a long courtship, sending letters to one another, before marrying in an extravagant ceremony at Westminster Abbey. They had four children and spent the majority of their married life committed to performing their royal duties. Want to hear more about their romance? Here is the story of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's relationship.

Queen Elizabeth met Prince Philip when she was just 13 years old

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip initially met in 1939 when they were still very young. Elizabeth was just 13 years old at the time. The meeting occurred during a royal tour of the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth where she and her sister, Princess Margaret, were greeted by Philip, who was just 18 at the time.

As the Express reported, Elizabeth's governess, Marion Crawford, recalled that she was intrigued by his athleticism. Apparently, the prince jokingly leaped over several tennis nets. According to several biographers (via USA Today), Elizabeth was smitten from the very first meeting and she never considered any other man.

The pair were actually distant cousins, both related to Queen Victoria. However, Philip was, at the time, a Greek and Danish prince. Despite this, he was raised and educated in Britain. It's easy to see why the young Elizabeth was intrigued by this dashing foreign prince from the very beginning.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip courted for eight years

After their initial meeting, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip went their separate ways. However, they did keep in touch. Philip served in the navy during the Second World War and Elizabeth completed her schooling. The relationship seemed to be moving along as he spent Christmas of 1943 with her family at Windsor Castle. As her governess wrote of the visit, he was animated in a way "none of us had ever seen before." To keep in touch, the pair corresponded by letter (via Daily Mail).

However, Elizabeth's family wasn't initially too keen on the match. As Time pointed out in a 1957 article, her father was particularly against him. "Despite Philip's British background and his fine war record, George VI was deeply worried about how British opinion ... would take to a Greek Prince as the husband of the heiress presumptive," the publication wrote. His "loud, boisterous laugh and his blunt, seagoing manners" were also said to annoy the king. Luckily for Elizabeth and Philip, the family eventually came around.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip married in November 1947

After a brief engagement, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip married in an extravagant ceremony in November 1947. Elizabeth was the 10th royal to marry at Westminster Abbey, according to the royal family's website. The ceremony was recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio to 200 million listeners. While the ceremony wasn't televised, there is some footage of Elizabeth and Philip greeting the public from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the ceremony. 

Elizabeth's dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, who reportedly used a famous Botticelli painting as his inspiration. The couple also had an elaborate nine-foot tall wedding cake that featured their coats of arms and sugar figures of their favorite activities.

After the ceremony, the pair hosted a wedding breakfast, which featured a string band and a menu of Filet de Sole Mountbatten. After the wedding day, the pair spent their wedding night in Hampshire at Philip's uncle's estate. Then, the couple traveled to the Scottish Balmoral estate for their honeymoon.

Elizabeth and Philip had five years of happy married life before she was crowned queen

In the early years of their marriage, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoyed a peaceful existence, as she wasn't yet the queen of England. Shortly after the wedding, the couple seemed to be perfectly happy. Elizabeth wrote to her parents, as reported by NBC News, "We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years." She continued, "Philip is an angel — he is so kind and thoughtful." Philip wrote to Elizabeth's mother, "My ambition is to weld the two of us into a new combined existence that will not only be able to withstand the shocks directed at us but will also have a positive existence for the good."

The pair spent their first few years living in Malta where Philip was the commander of a Royal Navy ship. According to Times of Malta, the pair later went back to Malta in 1964 to mark the country's independence from Britain. At the time, Philip said the country was a "fortress" and a place of "peace." It's clear that the pair were carefree and happy during their time there. However, this honeymoon period came to an abrupt end when Elizabeth's father, King George VI, died in 1952.

When Elizabeth became queen, their relationship and lives changed dramatically

When King George VI, Princess Elizabeth and her husband had to return home where she would take the throne. Philip had to give up his naval career in order to become her consort. According to Biography.com, he once said, "I thought I was going to have a career in the navy, but it became obvious there was no hope ... You have to make compromises. That's life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it."

As fans of Netflix's The Crown will remember, the show portrayed this as a time of tension, with Philip struggling to adjust to his new duties and refusing to kneel before his wife. While the show is definitely fictionalized, royal biographer Philip Ziegler told the Daily Mail, "It would be surprising if any strong-minded, enterprising man who wants to have his own career wouldn't have been slightly irritated about having to walk two steps behind someone else." 

Eventually, Philip became more accustomed to his role. As Clive Irving, author of The Last Queen: How Queen Elizabeth II Saved the Monarchy, told NBC News, "Because they have been married for so long, the marriage evolved and it turned out much better than it began."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip raised four children together

While committing to their royal duties, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip found time to raise four childrenPrince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward. In Netflix's The Crown, Philip is portrayed as a distant, uncaring father. However, it turns out, he and the queen were both involved in their children's upbringing. According to the Express (via The Sun), the queen was actually pretty "upset" and "annoyed" about how the show portrayed Philip's parenting skills.

One senior staff member said, "She was particularly annoyed at a scene in which Philip has no sympathy for a plainly upset Charles while he is flying him home from Scotland. That simply did not happen." It sounds like the pair were both caring parents to their children.

As Philip recalled at his golden wedding anniversary, as reported by The Guardian, "Like all families, we went through the full range of the pleasures and tribulations of bringing up children." He noted, "I am, naturally, somewhat biased, but I think our children have all done rather well under very difficult and demanding circumstances and I hope I can be forgiven for feeling proud of them."

Prince Philip took on plenty of royal duties to support his wife

While the queen took on her full range of duties as monarch, her husband had a lot of new duties, too. After giving up his career, he became a full-time royal. According to the National Post, in addition to appearing at many royal engagements with his wife, Prince Philip also undertook 22,000 solo engagements to help his wife.

It's clear that Philip's contributions were immensely helpful and were supportive of Queen Elizabeth. As she once said, according to the Daily Mail, "He is someone who doesn't take easily compliments, but he has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years."

Prince Philip retired from his public role at the age of 96 in 2017. At the time, the Palace said (via The Guardian), "In taking this decision, the duke has the full support of the Queen."

The pair enjoyed imagining life together as a "normal" couple

While Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were certainly very busy throughout their marriage with royal duties, they continued to enjoy spending peaceful time together in more modest surroundings when they could. Philip, for one, was reportedly never a fan of Buckingham Palace. In fact, he once compared it to a hospital.

As the Daily Beast reported, the pair had a lifelong dream of moving away from London for a simpler life. As the publication put it, "The dream of quietly living out their days as 'normal' people in the Shires." When they could get away from official appearances, the pair often spent time at Craigowan Lodge on the royal estate in Scotland, Balmoral, where they imagined a more normal life with the queen doing the washing up and the prince holding barbecues. As biographer Penny Juror said, "They like being in a smaller cozier house ... they dream of being like us."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip became loving grandparents

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have welcomed several grandchildren and great-grandchildren into their family over the years, including Prince Charles' children, Prince William and Prince Harry. According to actor Matt Smith (via Digital Spy), who portrayed Philip in The Crown, William once said of his grandfather, "Just one word — legend!" And Princess Eugenie described her grandfather in the documentary Our Queen at Ninety, saying, "I think Grandpa is incredible. He really is strong and consistent." Apparently, Philip was especially helpful for William and Harry after their mother, Princess Diana, passed away. He even walked with the boys during the funeral to support them, according to Town & Country

The queen reportedly has an equally close relationship with her grandchildren. As a body language expert told Good Housekeeping, "There's a genuine joy in her face when she's with her grandchildren and that's all that matters." By the sounds of things, their grandchildren certainly looked up to Elizabeth and Philip as a couple. As William once said (via Hello!), "I would love to know their secret. They are the most lovely couple."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip always found time for a daily phone call

Because of their busy schedules as royals, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip didn't exactly have a normal relationship. In fact, they often had to spend weeks or even months apart. As the Daily Beast reported, Philip moved into the country after his retirement, but, before this, they had often been apart, and even when they were together, they reportedly slept in separate bedrooms.

Nevertheless, despite their unconventional marital arrangements, the pair remained loving and devoted throughout their lives. As Express noted, they even made time for a daily catch-up phone call.

As royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliam said in 2019 (via Express), "She has always known she could rely on his advice and that it would be valuable." It sounds like even when they were apart, Philip continued to be a big support for his wife — and vice versa.

Prince Philip had these cute nicknames for Queen Elizabeth

We don't often imagine the queen and her husband being particularly romantic — however, in private, the pair were evidently very fond and affectionate. According to Reader's Digest, Philip used to call his wife "cabbage." Apparently, this was a joke, taken from the French pet name mon petit chou, which directly translates to "my little cabbage. Peter Morgan, who wrote 2006's The Queen, told The Times, "I inquired in royal circles and was told on very good authority that that is what the duke sometimes calls the Queen."

Apparently, Philip also called his wife by her family nickname, "Lilibet," a pet name that developed when she was a child and couldn't pronounce "Elizabeth," according to The Washington Post. Of course, Philip referred to her as simply "The Queen" in public — but it's very sweet to find out that they had a playful, caring relationship in private. These two were pretty adorable!

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made a point to celebrate their anniversary

The royal couple was always fastidious about marking their wedding anniversary. Usually, it was the only time either expressed any remotely romantic feelings in public. According to the royal family's website, the pair's first public celebration was for their sixth anniversary during the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, with a dance held at Clarence House. In 1972, the pair held a service at Westminster Abbey for their silver anniversary. The year 1997 marked their golden anniversary — it was during this celebration that the queen called Philip her "strength and stay."

In 2007, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated their diamond anniversary and their relationship became the longest marriage in royal history. Finally, in 2020, the pair celebrated their 73rd anniversary, releasing a photo of them at home looking at a homemade card from family members. The royal family's official Twitter account also tweeted about the occasion, thanking the public for their well wishes and sharing a lovely image of the couple on their honeymoon.

The royal couple spent the 2020 pandemic together at Windsor Castle

Even though Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth didn't live together permanently after his retirement in 2017, they did spend an extended period of time together during the 2020 pandemic. In March of 2020, just before lockdown in the U.K., Philip and the queen settled down in Windsor Castle. They then spent some time at the Balmoral estate in August. As Chris Ship, a royal correspondent, noted on ITV (via Express), "The Queen has been in a so-called HMS bubble."

According to Vanity Fair, their lockdown was actually a nice break from their busy royal lives. Apparently, the pair enjoyed daily walks and quiet dinners together every single day. A 2019 documentary revealed that the pair enjoy eating in front of the television (via Express), so we imagine they might have broken out the TV trays during this time too. Sadly, Philip experienced some health problems during this time and was rushed to hospital in early 2021.

Prince Philip passed away in 2021 at the age of 99

Prince Philip's death in 2021 marked the end of the longest marriage in royal history. According to insiders, who spoke to the Daily Mail, the prince's last few days were quiet and calm. Apparently, he was determined to die at home rather than at the hospital. In his last few days, he sat outside in the sun "with a rug over his legs." He avoided using a wheelchair. As one insider said, "When [the wheelchair] first appeared in the private rooms he shouted, 'Get that bloody thing out of my sight!'" 

According to Hello! magazine, Prince Andrew said of his death, "The Queen as you would expect is an incredibly stoic person and she described his passing as a 'miracle' and she's contemplating." He added, "She described it as having left a huge void in her life, but we — her family — are rallying around to make sure we are there to support her and I know that there is a huge amount of support."