A romance sparked
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones,” said Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, at the start of her annual Christmas speech on December 25, 2021. “This year, especially, I understand why.” That’s because she was in mourning for her beloved husband of more than 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99.
Recalling the “mischievous, enquiring twinkle in her late husband’s eyes,” as well as his “sense of service, intellectual curiosity, and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation,” Queen Elizabeth’s sweet tribute to her “strength and stay,” as she had referred to Prince Philip in another Christmas speech some 20 years ago, had many listeners in tears. It wasn’t just that the Queen was calling to mind some of the traits for which Philip was most beloved, not just by her, but by the general public; or that her recognition of the challenges of celebrating a holiday while mourning was so very relatable and poignant. Perhaps the deeper wrench was the fact that Philip’s death marked the end of an era so for many who have no real memory of a world in which Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were not at the top of this royal family tree. Here is the incredible story behind the fairy tale romance between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s first meeting
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip met for the first time in 1934 at the wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. The eight-year-old Princess Elizabeth of York, as she was known at the time, was first cousin to the groom, while 13-year-old Philip had two family ties to this particular royal wedding: cousin to the bride and the groom.
On the bride’s side, both Philip’s and Marina’s fathers were sons of King George of Greece. As for the groom, Philip and George of Kent were second cousins once-removed, both having descended from the same set of great-great-grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This means that, yes, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were cousins.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s courtship
It was only a matter of happenstance that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip met again in July 1939. Elizabeth, now 13, was visiting the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon with her parents and sister. Philip, 18, a student at the school, was pulled in to be their tour guide after the two cadets who were originally assigned to the honours contracted mumps.
By all accounts, young Elizabeth was immediately smitten and followed the chance meeting up with a letter to Philip. He responded, and that lead to a lengthy correspondence between the two that would continue all throughout World War II, during which Philip was serving in the British Royal Navy. Elizabeth was soon keeping a framed photo of the handsome prince on her nightstand.
In 1943, Philip accepted an invitation to be Elizabeth’s guest at the royal family’s Christmas celebration at Windsor. During the celebration, Elizabeth performed in a pantomime version of Aladdin, and those who were present observed the signs of a romance blossoming between her and Philip. Now, when the prince went about his wartime travels, it was with a picture of Princess Elizabeth in his pocket.