How Queen Elizabeth Met Prince Philip
Today, we lost Prince Philip at age 99.
The stoic Philip was married to Queen Elizabeth for 74 years, giving her four children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren, and playing an integral role in shaping the British monarchy for generations to come.
Though Philip and Elizabeth had been married for an eternity by modern standards, their relationship goes back even further. Philip and Elizabeth first met when the future queen was only seven years old and Philip was twelve, while both were attending a wedding for Philip's cousin (who is also Elizabeth's aunt — yes, they are third cousins, and both are great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria).
The children barely interacted, but they did make eye contact for a brief moment, an instance that a photographer somehow caught on film. It seems that the British press was always as relentless and invasive as it is today.
Because of the image, which was published in the papers, people began to speculate that Philip might be a suitable husband for the princess. This speculation seems unnerving and creepy now in light of the children's ages, but it proved correct.
The pair met again when Elizabeth was thirteen and Philip was an 18-year-old cadet at the Royal Naval College in 1939. World War II was about to break out, and Philip was training to be a part of the Allied forces.
She was introduced to Philip at the house of the Captain of the College, where he showed off his sports-playing skills for the royals. According to royal legends, when she saw Prince Philip playing tennis, Elizabeth said, "How high he can jump!" Apparently, Elizabeth, who had lived quite a sheltered life up until then, was very taken with the blonde cadet.
Later on that same trip, Elizabeth apparently watched Prince Philip through binoculars as he and other cadets followed the Royal Yacht as it left shore. According to TIME magazine, "Philip met Elizabeth, his third cousin, when they were children. From the time she was 13, she was besotted…She never fell for another man, though he had other relationships while she grew into adulthood."
"Well, we'd met at Dartmouth, and as far as I was concerned it was a very amusing experience, going on board the yacht and meeting them, and that sort of thing, and that was that," Philip said of their meeting.
Unlike Elizabeth, Philip had a bit of a traumatic childhood. His family fled Greece when he was a child and moved to Paris, but soon his mother was committed to an asylum and his father sent him off to boarding schools. Philip was apparently very close to his sisters; but his favorite, Cecile, died in a plane crash when she was newly pregnant, and his other sisters were married to German officers, making them enemies in the war.
After their meeting, Philip and Elizabeth began writing letters. In 1943, when she was 17, Elizabeth invited Philip to come stay with her family for Christmas. Philip apparently found Elizabeth quite attractive as she was charming, witty, cheerful, and grounded — very different from his own mother.
By 1946, years of courtship meant that the pair seemed poised to make things official, but the war had just ended and by then Elizabeth's family had turned against Philip — mostly because, with his blonde hair, blue eyes, and German heritage, he seemed too, well, German. The Palace, ever-judgmental, worried that he might remind people too much of a Nazi.
Others were critical of the marriage given that Philip was technically a British commoner, a theme that seems to be a tradition in the royal family. Decades later, Prince William would shock the world by marrying a commoner, Kate Middleton; and Prince Harry would take things one step further when he married an American, Meghan Markle. (Of course, Markle's relationship with the Royal Family wouldn't last very long).
But Elizabeth was determined to marry her man, and so the wedding date was set for November 20, 1947. The rest was history.
"He has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years," the Queen said in 1997 on their anniversary. "I owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim."
Of course, their marriage had its ups and downs and its fair share of controversies. Philip was apparently quite angry when he had to take the Queen's name — "I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children," Philip allegedly said. "I'm nothing but a bloody amoeba."
As always, however, he kept his chin up and proved to be a force of encouragement to the queen throughout their many royal engagements. "Don't look so sad, Sausage," he supposedly teased her during an Australian stop.
Still, considering the paparazzi pursued them since they were eight years old and in light of the scrutiny that accompanies the throne, their relationship has been impressively persistent through it all.