THE QUEEN AND PRINCE PHILIP: PART 1
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth, 95, is an icon, a true symbol of monarchy. But she is also the real-life heroine of one of the greatest love stories of our times. She and her late husband, Prince Philip, first met when they were still in their teens, and were devoted to each other throughout 73 years of marriage.
It all began with a fateful encounter when Elizabeth was just 13. She and her sister Princess Margaret accompanied their parents the King and Queen on a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. As Elizabeth watched a tall, blond 18-year-old naval cadet show off in front of her by jumping the net on a tennis court, she was smitten. That young man was Prince Philip of Greece andDenmark, a charismatic but impoverished royal.
“She never took her eyes off him the whole time,” Elizabeth's governess Marion Crawford noted.
At Christmas 1943, the two met again at Windsor Castle, where Elizabeth and Margaret were putting on a charity performance of the pantomime Aladdin. It was an interlude of fun for Philip, who was by then away at sea fighting in the Second World War. He and Elizabeth kept in touch by letter throughout the War, during which Philip won official praise for his bravery.
“She was very much in love,” the Queen’s confidante, Lady Pamela Hicks, later recalled. Reunited after the war, by which time Elizabeth had blossomed into a striking young woman, the pair's friendship deepened and after a serious courtship, Philip declared that he had fallen “completely and unreservedly” in love with her.
He proposed at her parents' Scottish home, Balmoral, in 1946 with a ring made with diamonds from his mother’s tiara, and their wedding took place the next year on 20 November at Westminster Abbey. It was a spectacular event, attended by thousands and celebrated by many millions more.
During their honeymoon, the 21-year-old Princess wrote a letter to her cousin Margaret Rhodes, saying: “I’m blissfully happy… and I’m enjoying being married to the best and nicest man in the world.” Even the famously forthright, no-nonsense Philip revealed his romantic side in a letter to his mother-in-law. “Lilibet is the only ‘thing’ in this world which is absolutely real to me,” he said.
Princess Elizabeth accompanied her naval officer husband to his post on the island of Malta, where they lived in a villa overlooking the sea. The newlyweds were able to enjoy a relatively normal lifestyle there, away from the spotlight. And whether she was zipping around the capital Valletta’s cobbled streets in her Morris Minor car or waltzing around the ballroom of The Phoenicia hotel, the future Queen was having the time of her life.
The couple’s happiness was completed by the birth of their first child, Prince Charles, in 1948, followed by Princess Anne two years later.
But in 1952 everything changed, and their sense of freedom was cut short forever. Elizabeth’s beloved father George VI died suddenly, aged 56, while she and Philip were touring Kenya. It was Philip who broke the news to his wife, still only 25, and comforted her in her grief. She was now the Queen, and he was her consort. From then on, their first duty must always be to the Crown.