THE QUEEN AND PRINCE PHILIP: PART 2
Theirs was the longest royal marriage in history, and one of the very happiest.
Her Majesty knew from the start that Philip was the only man for her. Now that he’s gone, she has an endless treasure trove of memories to sustain her.
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The early years of Elizabeth's reign in the 1950s were a challenging time for the young royal couple as they came to terms with the fact that she was now monarch. But, in common with so many of their wartime generation, Elizabeth and Philip simply dealt with whatever life sent them.
Elizabeth took on all the responsibilities and stresses of the Crown, with little time left to devote to her husband and family. Philip, as her consort, had a secondary role. For a man of his intelligence and energy this must sometimes have been frustrating. But he never wavered in his duty. He later explained to his biographer, Gyles Brandreth: “I had to try to support the Queen as best I could without getting in the way. The difficulty was to find things to do that might be useful.”
He certainly succeeded. First, he was a driving force in planning his wife's spectacular Coronation on the 2nd of June 1953. After riding to Westminster Abbey with her in the Gold State Coach, Philip was called on to pay homage to the Queen. Kneeling and placing his hands on hers, he pledged: “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb... to live and die.” He was now not only her husband but her subject, too.
As the monarch undertook her endless official engagements, as well as tours across the world, Philip was constantly at her side, or rather, one step behind, as protocol required. He was always there to help, advise, or simply to make her laugh when the cares of state became a strain. In the midst of all the pomp and ceremony that surrounded her, he was the one person she could count on to see beyond the Crown to the person beneath it.
His pet name for her, Cabbage, expressed their playful, affectionate relationship.
“Philip has been such an important ingredient in her success and happiness,” the Queen's biographer Robert Lacey once said. “He makes her laugh, he’s got a slightly naughty sense of humour, a sense of the ridiculous that keeps her amused."
To balance his lower public status, Elizabeth made sure that at home, Philip was the boss. Behind Palace walls, the couple relished the time spent with their family, which grew in the 1960s to include two more little Princes, Andrew and Edward. Holiday photos show the Windsors walking, riding, playing games or enjoying a barbecue cooked by their father, looking as carefree as any ordinary Britons.
The Queen was the softer parent, while Philip put more emphasis on discipline and duty. But there is no doubt that both loved their children deeply. And when later they became parents-in-law, grandparents and finally great-grandparents, they did their very best to nurture the whole Windsor clan.
Did either of the couple stray in all their decades together? For Elizabeth, her first love was to last forever. And for Philip? One of the Queen’s circle says she accepted that he was a man who “takes a lot of amusing”. But if he had an eye for the ladies, it was no more than that.
After the Duke’s death in 2021, TV presenter Carol Vorderman spoke about a private lunch she had attended at Buckingham Palace when the pair were both in their 80s. She recalled how “they were flirting with each other madly and laughing.”
“Theirs was a love and marriage of more than 73 years,” she pointed out.
Towards the end of Philip's life, he went to live peacefully on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, while Elizabeth, as Queen, needed to stay closer to London. Then the outbreak of Covid-19 gave the elderly couple an unexpected gift, the chance to spend precious time together. They isolated in their apartments at Windsor Castle, attended to by a reduced staff dubbed “HMS Bubble” – a name that amused former naval commander Philip.
When finally he passed away, aged 99, the Queen was devastated by the loss of the man she had described as "my strength and stay". But she carries on with courage and conviction, just as he would want, honouring him in everything she does.