The Queen and Prince Philip boast, believe it or not, the longest-lasting marriage in British royal history, as they’ve been wed for 70 years. And although they keep the details of their personal life hidden from the press as well as they can, they’ve always seemed happy together. To mark the 70-year point of their relationship, then, the Queen had a special gift to give to her husband.
Then-Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in 1947. And at the time, it hadn’t been that long since World War II had ravaged London, so the wedding was a reasonably sedate affair by royal standards. Elizabeth even used ration coupons to buy her wedding gown and fixed her makeup for the day by herself.
Meanwhile, although Philip had to give up his Danish and Greek royal titles before the wedding, he gained several British ones instead. By the time he was wed to Elizabeth, he bore the titles His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Elizabeth, for her part, became Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh as soon as she married Philip.
But the wedding hadn’t been greeted with universal approval. That’s because Philip was a Greek; far worse, he also had links to Germany. What’s more, three of the husbands of his sisters were outright Nazis. And while Philip was more or less estranged from his family, which had been completely torn apart by war, 40 percent of the British public thought that the marriage should not go ahead, according to a newspaper survey.
But go ahead it did, after which Elizabeth and Philip settled down at Clarence House. Then, one year later, their first child, Charles, was born; Anne also arrived in 1950. However, 1952 saw the moment that Elizabeth had been preparing for for most of her life. That year, while she was visiting Kenya, her father King George VI died, meaning she would return to England as queen.
And Elizabeth’s sudden higher status apparently put a strain on the marriage. After all, she was now not only Philip’s wife but his monarch as well. Philip was also said to have been angry to learn that the royal house would remain the House of Windsor instead of Mountbatten. The biography Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage reports him as saying, “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”
Furthermore, there was at least one recorded spat between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in their earlier days – but no one will ever see it. In 1954 an Australian film crew caught the Queen on camera furiously hurling tennis equipment at her fleeing husband. Shortly afterwards, her press secretary approached the cameramen and ordered the footage destroyed. They complied.
Elizabeth had two more children as her reign continued: Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964. And although she was living through immensely turbulent times, the Queen seemingly did a good job of ruling. Her popularity among both her subjects and among other heads of state remained high, for one. But, gradually, the media began to intrude more and more into her and Philip’s private lives, along with those of the other royals.
Indeed, before too long, there came a time when no cameraman would likely ever agree to destroy incriminating royal footage. And the media ate up every royal scandal that came their way. Many of these involved Charles, the now-grown oldest son of Elizabeth and Philip. The publicity surrounding his marriage and divorce to Lady Diana Spencer may have caused some consternation for the royal family.
But the Queen herself was good at keeping her private life just that. And even as three of her four children ended up with broken marriages, hers remained strong. So, in 1997 she and Philip celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” the Queen said of her husband in a speech at London’s Banqueting House, Whitehall.
Finally, in 2017, the Queen and Prince Philip reached their 70-year anniversary – the platinum one. And, by all accounts, the couple celebrated the occasion quietly, with none of the excitement – or the controversy – that had met their original marriage. However, the Queen did grant her husband a special present to commemorate their long-lasting union.
“Her Majesty has appointed His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh to be a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO),” the official Royal Family Twitter account announced to the world on November 20, 2017. “Awards in the Royal Victorian Order are made personally by the Queen for services to the Sovereign.”
Well, it’s fair to say that 70 years of marriage to a queen counts as “services to the Sovereign.” And that particular appointment makes Prince Philip the only living person in the U.K. to have all four of the awards known as “chivalry breast stars.” The last person to have had so many was Lord Mountbatten, Philip’s late uncle.
The other three honors that Philip holds are “Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” (KG), “Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle” (KT) and “Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (GBE). For their 60th anniversary back in 2007, the Queen also gave Prince Philip the award of the Royal Victorian Chain.
However, no regular folks – and certainly no press – were invited to witness the party held for the anniversary at Windsor Castle. Instead, the Queen and Prince Philip’s friends and close family members – including Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry – were present. Reportedly, the party was a very luxurious affair, with a extravagant banquet and entertainment after dinner.
But the U.K. did do a few special things to celebrate the occasion. At Westminster Abbey, the place where the Queen and Prince Philip married, a complex sequence of bells were sounded in tribute for over three hours. Many officials of the country also offered their congratulations via Twitter, including U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
“Congratulations to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as they celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary,” May’s Twitter account posted on November 20. “They have devoted their lives to the service of the U.K. and the Commonwealth – my best wishes to them both on this special occasion.”
The Queen and the Duke also released some new photographs of themselves, taken specially for the occasion. In the images, the Queen is seen wearing a yellow gold brooch with rubies that stand out against her white dress. This brooch, known as the “Scarab” brooch, was an expensive gift from Prince Philip to his wife in 1966.
But the Queen and Prince Philip are both beginning to advance in age now. They’ve already outlived most other British royals; the Queen has in fact long outlasted her father, King George VI, who died aged 56. And their marriage, too, has outlasted most royal marriages. Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who possessed arguably one of the most enduring royal love stories, only had 21 years as husband and wife before he died.
At the moment, then, Prince Philip and the Queen are stewarding the newer generation of royals into one day taking their places. Prince William will take the throne after Prince Charles does, and Charles himself will become monarch after the Queen eventually passes away. Such is the way of royalty. Hopefully, though, the Queen and the Duke still have a good few years of happiness ahead of them.