Happy anniversary, Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness! On November 20, 1947, the Princess Elizabeth (later to be known as Queen Elizabeth II) and the newly minted Duke of Edinburgh tied the knot at Westminster Abbey.
Unlike many other royal couples who found themselves trotting down the aisle, Elizabeth and Philip had known each other for years. They first met in 1934, when Elizabeth was only eight years old. In 1939, 13-year-old Elizabeth accompanied her parents and younger sister, Margaret, on a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where 18-year-old Philip was studying. Since he knew the family, Philip was asked to escort the two young princesses. Elizabeth is said to have fallen in love with him during the visit, and the two started corresponding regularly after that.
Philip spent the war serving in the British Navy, and when he returned, he asked King George VI for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The king liked Philip just fine, but there were a few strikes against the handsome young lieutenant. As the son of an exiled Greek prince, he had little in the way of financial resources. He also had sisters who had married into the German nobility to men with links to the Nazi party, an understandably touchy subject in a country still digging out from under the Blitzkrieg rubble. Still, King George gave his permission, asking only that the couple delay the announcement of their engagement until after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday in April, 1947. They obliged, and Philip used the time to convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, renounce his foreign titles, and become a naturalized British citizen.
The wedding was a spot of sun in the post-war gloom. The country rallied and planned street parties, and ladies across the Commonwealth sent Elizabeth their ration coupons for her dress material (they were all returned). The gown was designed by royal favorite Norman Harnell, who went on to design Elizabeth’s coronation gown in 1952.
A few notable faces were missing from Westminster Abbey that day: Philip’s three surviving sisters, with their close ties to Germany, were not invited. Nor was the Duke of Windsor, the bride’s uncle. Her aunt, Mary, the Princess Royal, also did not attend, pleading ill health, though some believed it was in protest of her brother’s exclusion. Nonetheless, the absentees did not diminish the couple’s happiness. They went on to have four children together (Charles was born just six days short of his parents’ first wedding anniversary), and they’ve remained at each others’ side through their toughest times, forging a 64-year partnership we should all wish to emulate. A very royal congratulations to them!