Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth: lives of love and duty

We take a look back at the earlier years of their relationship.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

by Lorna White |

One of the greatest love stories in the history of the British monarchy, the Queen and Prince Philip’s devotion and commitment to each other truly stood the test of time.

They were married for 73 years before Prince Philip's death. But it is not just the result of true love – like any couple they had to work at their marriage and the unique challenges they faced in public service.

With a marriage lasting over 70 years, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made some incredible memories over the years.

A dutiful consort

He was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch but when the then Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 it took Prince Philip some time to adjust to being cast in a supporting role. He was reported to be furious about issues surrounding the name their children should take.

But as time passed issues were worked through and he soon became the constant by the Queen’s side, who was naturally shy by nature. Throughout their married life it is Philip who has done most of the talking socially – occasionally to liven things up or get a reaction. For example, at state banquets, he would go and get the guests for lunch and bring them to the dining room. He has helped her see the funny side of situations making her laugh as they faced the challenges of public life.

But it is perhaps the words of Philip's first-ever private secretary Michael Parker, a friend from his Navy days, that summed up his commitment to his consort role. He once revealed: “He told me the first day he offered me my job that his job, first, second and last was never to let her down.”

The secrets of their successful marriage

Partnership was at the very heart of the couple’s marriage. And a deep trust. Often they have only had each other to rely on and to be real together. Affection and light-heartedness have been another hallmark, ever since the days the young Philip would chase his wife along Buckingham Palace corridors wearing an enormous set of false teeth! In private they are rumoured to call other ‘Cabbage’ and ‘The Boss’.

The Queen’s former Private Secretary Lord Charteris summed it up: “Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the Queen simply as another human being. She values that.”

Weathering storms and loss

Over the years the Queen and Prince Philip faced many major and very personal issues. From her beloved sister’s affair with Group Captain Peter Townsend to the tragic death of Princess Diana, there have been moments when the storms almost threatened to engulf them. For the Queen one of the worst years was 1992, which she famously called her ‘Annus Horribilus’. That year saw three of her children’s marriages in trouble, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips divorced, while Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated. And on November 20, their 45th wedding anniversary, Windsor Castle was engulfed by flames.

There were said to be many differences of opinion between the Queen and Prince Philip on dealing with their children’s marriage break-ups but through it all, they still presented a united front.

Ten years later when the Queen lost her mother and sister within a space of just months Philip was again at her side, helping her through the loss.

Changing times

Prince Philip’s retirement from royal duties of course brought changes to their lives. With his typical quick wit when a friend said to the Prince, then aged 96, “sorry to hear you’re standing down,” he replied, “Well I can’t stand up much longer.”

For the Queen, it must have been difficult, and no doubt still is, not having Philip with her on official occasions. But throughout their 73 years, they relied on each other and among other things they enjoyed a traditional Sunday lunch at Windsor Castle.

Over the years the Queen often referred to him as her rock. In a touching tribute in 1997 she said: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.” And that will never change.

A powerful legacy

Their love for each other and sense of duty are possibly the two most powerful legacies the Queen and Prince Philip have given their family. They modelled commitment and dedication and it is a lesson not lost, particularly on their grandchildren.

“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,” the Duke of Cambridge said about his grandparents in 2012.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's relationship in pictures

We take a look back at some of the best vintage pictures of the pair from the earlier years of their relationship, from their engagement in 1947 to the 60s.

Gallery

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The pair waving from Buckingham Palace, July 1947, the year they married.

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The couple officially announce their engagement at Buckingham Palace, July 1947.

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Following the announcement of engagement, November 1947.

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A young Elizabeth and Philip after announcing their engagement, July 1947.

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Princess Elizabeth poses with her family and fiancé ahead of her marriage, 1947.

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The young couple photographed at Buckingham Palace shortly before their wedding, 1947.

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Here's the pair arriving at the Royal Variety Performance, November 1947.

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Arriving at the Armistice Day service, November 1947.

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The couple were married at Westminster Abbey on 20th November 1947.

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Posing for their official wedding photos at the Palace after their wedding, November 1947.

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Waving from the famous balcony of Buckingham Palace after the wedding, November 1947.

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Honeymooning at Broadlands House, home to Philip's Uncle, November 1947.

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Playing with one of the Queen's beloved corgi'd while on honeymoon, November 1947.

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Admiring their wedding photos while on their honeymoon, November 1947.

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Enjoying a countryside stroll on their honeymoon at Broadlands House in Hampshire, November 1947.

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The pair arriving in Malta (where Philip was stationed with the Royal Navy) for the second part of their honeymoon, 1947.

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Here they are attending a charity ball at the Dorchester Hotel, 1948.

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On board the 'Pamir,' March 1948.

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Prince Philip receives the Freedom of the City of London, 1948.

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Visiting the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, May 1948.

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Attending the Royal Horse Show at Windsor, May 1949.

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Arriving at the wedding of the Earl of Harewood and Marion Stein, 1949.

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Posing with their newborn baby Charles, July 1949.

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After Princess Anne's christening, 1950.

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Walking in the grounds of Clarence House, August 1951.

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A family portrait session with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne at Clarence House, 1951.

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A family photoshoot with Charles and Anne, August 1951.

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Visiting the Festival of Britain, 1951.

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Royal tour of Quebec, 1951.

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Enjoying a barn dance in Ottowa, 1951.

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Photographed outside Balmoral, September 1952.

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A candid shot with Princess Anne and Prince Charles, 1951.

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Photographed with the children at Balmoral, September 1952.

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Leaving Westminster Abbey in an ornate carriage following Elizabeth's coronation, June 1953.

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Waving to the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following Elizabeth's coronation, June 1953.

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Elizabeth poses for official photos with Philip following her coronation.

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Visiting Northern Ireland on the Coronation Tour, 1953.

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Photographing the arrival of an escort ship while en route to Fiji during the Coronation Tour, 1953.

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Visiting Bermuda, November 1953.

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With their children and two ponies in the grounds of Balmoral, August 1955.

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Playing with the corgis in the grounds of Balmoral, August 1955.

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A Royal trip to Nigeria, 1956.

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Posing for photographs at Buckingham Palace, December 1958.

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Posing for photographs at Buckingham Palace, December 1958.

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The Queen and Prince Philip with corgis at Windsor Castle, 1959.

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John and Jackie Kennedy visit Buckingham Palace, 1960.

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Another picture of the Kennedy's visit to Buckingham Palace, 1960.

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Leaving Manchester by train, May 1961.

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Presenting Bobby Moore with the World Cup trophy, 1966.

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Flying back from Yorkshire, filmed for a BBC and ITV documentary.

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