Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, first met when they were both relatively young. At the age of just 13, in fact, the future monarch would come to fall in love with the more mature and handsome naval officer. And after the pair started writing to each other, a romance ensued that would go on to stand the test of time.
Then, despite the British royal family’s reservations, Elizabeth and Philip married in 1947. And after Elizabeth became queen in 1952, the duke became a constant presence by his wife’s side. Indeed, since then, he has seemingly supported her through the ups and downs that being a figurehead can bring.
And one of Elizabeth and Philip’s finest achievements is without doubt their family. During their more than 70-year union, the couple have welcomed four children into the world, who in turn have given them eight grandkids; as of May 2019 they also have eight great-grandchildren. With that in mind, then, it’s safe to say that the monarch and her husband know all about family – not least because they themselves are blood relatives.
Furthermore, Elizabeth and Philip’s union has endured despite the fact that the pair came from rather different backgrounds. The heir to the throne had experienced a stable upbringing with all the usual royal privileges; her future husband, by contrast, had been a poor prince who’d been exiled from his native Greece when he was just a child.
At first, Philip moved to France but was eventually raised by one of his grandmothers in the United Kingdom. The prince’s childhood was subsequently pretty ordinary; he even reportedly performed menial tasks such as washing plates and operating boilers. Then after the adolescent had completed his education in 1939, he joined the British Royal Navy at the tender age of 18.
It was also around this time that Philip embarked on his romance with Elizabeth, although they had actually first crossed paths some years prior. Their initial introduction reportedly occurred in 1934 at a royal wedding, you see. Then, a few years later, they met once again. It would be upon their third encounter in 1939 that Elizabeth would finally fall for Philip, however.
In July of that year, Elizabeth saw Philip at Dartmouth’s Royal Naval College, where he was a naval cadet. And when the future queen was just 13 years old, she fell in love with Philip – who was five years her senior. Consequently, the pair began penning messages to each other, and over the ensuing years Philip began frequenting various royal houses in order to see Elizabeth.
One of the very first meetings between the couple was reportedly witnessed by Marion “Crawfie” Crawford, Elizabeth’s governess, who claimed that the teenager “never took her eyes off” Philip. And while Crawford also revealed that Philip apparently “did not pay [Elizabeth] any special attention,” according to Elizabeth’s cousin Margaret Rhodes, “she never looked at anyone else.”
But the British royal family reportedly didn’t initially approve of Elizabeth’s romance with Philip. It’s said, for example, that they were particularly worried about his social standing as a foreign prince with no money or land. Philip’s loud personality was seemingly at odds with Elizabeth’s father’s mild demeanor, too, and this may not have helped matters, either.
Nonetheless, the couple’s relationship endured, and Elizabeth and Philip eventually became engaged in 1946. And despite the fact that the pair apparently kept the development secret from her parents at first, King George VI did agree to their union. His only request was that they wouldn’t formally announce their engagement until after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday in April 1947. As a consequence, then, the couple publicly revealed their intent to marry in July of that year.
Yet not everyone was supportive of Elizabeth and Philip’s engagement. Certain segments of the British media, for example, became preoccupied with Philip’s foreign origin. And in the aftermath of the Second World War, there was much controversy around his sisters’ marriages to German noblemen – some of whom were believed to be connected to the Nazis.
Philip seemingly proved his commitment to his future bride, though, by renouncing his status as a prince of both Greece and Denmark and becoming just Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. In an attempt to appease his critics in the press and fit in with the royal family, he also changed his religion from Greek Orthodoxy to the Church of England.
So, Philip had made a number of sacrifices for Elizabeth – and it seems that they were worth it. As quoted by The Daily Telegraph, in a letter written prior to his marriage, Philip apparently proclaimed that “to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty.”
Elizabeth and Philip subsequently wed at Westminster Abbey in London on November 20, 1947. At that time, Britain was still getting over the Second World War, meaning Elizabeth reportedly needed ration coupons in order to purchase the fabric for her dress. It seems, too, that post-war politics had a major impact on the couple’s guest list.
The wedding took place just two years after the conclusion of World War II, after all. And given that Britain and Germany had been on opposing sides during the conflict, it was therefore deemed inappropriate for Philip’s German relatives to attend. Consequently, none of his three surviving sisters were present at the nuptials.
Then, shortly after the wedding, Elizabeth and Philip started their own family, with their first child, Prince Charles, arriving in November 1948. Princess Anne followed not long after, too, in 1950. However, the royals didn’t get to sit back and relish parenthood. As Philip was working in Malta with the Royal Navy, both he and Elizabeth were frequently away from home .
But that would all change following Elizabeth father’s death in 1952. At the time of George VI’s passing, the young royal couple had been abroad, with an itinerary that was to take them to Kenya, New Zealand and Australia. And, ultimately, it fell to Philip to break the sad news to Elizabeth while they were in Africa; her husband then had to tell her that she would now ascend to the British throne.
So, following the death of George VI, Elizabeth and Philip quickly came back to England and made Buckingham Palace their home. Philip sacrificed his naval post, too, in order to aid his spouse in her new role as queen. However, when it came to deciding the name that Elizabeth would take upon becoming the monarch, there was apparently a certain amount of disagreement between the couple.
Just before he married Elizabeth, you see, Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh. And, initially, Elizabeth followed her husband’s title, making her the Duchess of Edinburgh. Upon her coronation in 1953, though, the Queen decided to pay tribute to her father instead by allowing the royal family to continue under the moniker of Windsor.
And while the British prime minister of the time, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth’s grandmother Queen Mary welcomed the decision, Philip reportedly wasn’t so pleased. It’s said, for instance, that he was particularly disappointed any future heirs to the throne wouldn’t bear his name. Allegedly, the duke even protested about being the only man in the country who wasn’t allowed to give his name to his own kids.
However, it appears that Elizabeth and Philip came to some sort of a compromise in 1960. By that time, Queen Mary had passed away, and Churchill was no longer in power. So, the couple decided to use Mountbatten-Windsor as a surname for the male descendants who didn’t have official royal titles.
The decision was made just in time for the birth of Elizabeth and Philip’s third child and second son, Prince Andrew, who arrived in February 1960. They welcomed their fourth and final child, Prince Edward, four years later in March 1964. And according to Hello magazine, in 1972 the Queen proudly revealed, “If I am asked what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can answer with equal simplicity and conviction: I am for it.”
Fast-forward to November 2019, and Elizabeth and Philip will have been married for 72 years. And during those decades, they’ve stuck together through thick and thin. Philip paid testament to the union, too, in 1997. “Tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage,” he stated. “The Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”
And in that same year Elizabeth returned the compliment to Philip when she spoke at a gala marking the couple’s golden wedding anniversary. “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” she said. “I and his whole family – in this and many other countries – owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
The couple’s incredible relationship hasn’t gone unnoticed by the younger members of the royal family, either. Prince William has said of his grandparents, for example, “I would love to know their secret. They are the most lovely couple, and I hope Catherine and I have that sort of future ahead of us.”
So, thanks to their public profiles and the longevity of their marriage, Elizabeth and Philip are perhaps one of the most recognizable older couples on the planet. But even though the pair’s romance is rather well documented, some people may be unaware that the monarch and her husband have more in common than just memories and their children. Yes, it’s also the case that the two share a bloodline.
And, in fact, it’s not unusual for the royal families of various countries to be interconnected. Historically, royals would marry into different European dynasties in a bid to create alliances or earn political benefits. As a result of this practice, then, the majority of Europe’s remaining royal branches are seemingly related to one another in some way.
One of Elizabeth and Philip’s common ancestors is Queen Victoria, who sat on the British throne from 1837 until 1901. In 1840 she famously married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and the couple went on to have five daughters and four sons. These children in turn produced 42 grandkids – eight of whom would become European monarchs themselves.
Specifically, those eight grandchildren of Victoria’s came to sit on the thrones of Spain, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Romania, Greece and Prussia as well as Great Britain. And of the 28 monarchies still in existence around the world today, five of them are headed by Victoria’s descendants – leading the queen to be nicknamed “the grandmother of Europe.”
Elizabeth, for her part, is related to Victoria on her father’s side. Victoria’s eldest son, Edward, took to the throne following her death in 1901. Then, following Edward’s own passing in 1910, his second-eldest son, George, became king, as Albert Victor – who was originally first in line for the throne – had already died by that point. And George V, as he would be known, was Elizabeth’s grandfather.
George V ruled until his death in 1936, when his eldest son, Edward VIII, was set to ascend the throne. However, mere months into his reign, Edward provoked outrage when he proposed to American divorcee Wallis Simpson. She was deemed an unacceptable candidate for queen consort, particularly because – as king – Edward was head of the Church of England.
And at the time, the church didn’t support remarriage following divorce, meaning Edward was therefore forced to choose between his throne and Wallis. He opted for love, abdicating as king in December 1936 – just 326 days into his reign. As a result, Edward became one of the shortest-serving monarchs in British history, and he went on to wed Wallis in 1937.
Edward’s abdication thus paved the way for his brother George – Elizabeth’s father – to become King George VI. The new monarch and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, also had two daughters: Elizabeth and Margaret. So, following the king’s death in 1952, Elizabeth took to the throne as queen. And in September 2015 she nabbed the record for the longest time on the British throne from her great-great-grandmother Victoria.
Meanwhile, Philip is linked to Victoria through his mother. Victoria gave birth to her second daughter, Alice, in 1843. Then, in 1862, Alice married into the Hesse and Rhine dynasty when she tied the knot with Grand Duke Ludwig IV. The couple went on to produce seven children – the first of whom was a girl who was also named Victoria.
Victoria then wed Prince Louis of Battenburg – a first cousin of her father – in 1884. The following year, they welcomed their first child, Alice, who was born at Windsor Castle in the presence of her great-grandmother Victoria. Then, after growing up, Alice would go on to marry Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903, and their youngest child would be Philip.
With all that considered, Elizabeth and Philip are in fact third cousins through their shared great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. This isn’t the only way in which the royal couple are related to each other, though. Yes, they share yet another common ancestor in the form of King Christian IX of Denmark.
Elizabeth’s paternal great-grandmother was Christian IX’s daughter Alexandra of Denmark, meaning Christian IX was Elizabeth’s great-great-grandfather. And as the Danish king was also Philip’s paternal great-grandfather, the duke shares a great-grandfather with Elizabeth’s father, George VI. All in all, then, the royal husband and wife are second cousins once removed to boot.
Yet while relatives marrying one another may be nearly unheard of today, it was once almost compulsory for royals. Indeed, in 2017 the travel site Expedia created a tool that details how heirs of the British and Scandinavian thrones have interwoven throughout history. The guide reveals just how closely related the British royal family are, too.
And in 2018 Sandra Pearson from Expedia revealed just why royals often decided to marry those with whom they shared ancestors. “In many countries, you would lose your right to the throne if you married a commoner,” she explained in an interview with Business Insider. “Hence, your choice was very limited, and you most probably would be related [to your spouse].”
But while their forebears may have been forced to marry one another out of necessity, Elizabeth and Philip appeared to have been united by love. And nowadays, British royals have more freedom over with whom they choose to tie the knot. As a result, we’ve been able to see fairy tale romances blossom between royals and commoners, including that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.