Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II—A Royal Romance in Pictures

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II's union was longest royal marriage in British history, spanning over 70 years.
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Prince Philip and the Queen: A Royal Romance in Pictures Newsweek

It was the longest royal marriage in British history, spanning more than 70 years. But it started in the most mundane circumstances, on a rainy July afternoon in Dartmouth, England.

The future Queen of England and her sister, Margaret, had been taken along to visit their father's old naval college, but an outbreak of mumps meant the girls were separated from the potentially infectious crowds of young cadets. They were whisked away to the college's headmaster's house instead.

But the boredom of a stuffy afternoon indoors was soon shattered. The 13-year-old Elizabeth's eye was caught by a tall, blonde young man, introduced to her as her third cousin, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

Philip took the royals out to the tennis courts, where he impressed the teenager by jumping over the nets. He spent the weekend with her and her family, during which time Elizabeth developed a fully-fledged crush on the 18-year-old royal—reportedly her first, and only, love.

But World War II broke out the following September, and 18-year-old Philip was called to his duties in the Royal Navy. Although they kept in touch through letters, the pair didn't spend any long periods of time together until 1946, when the Prince began regularly visiting Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth, by this time, was the more appropriate age of 20.

In 1946, Philip wrote to the Queen, who he nicknamed 'Lilibeth', apologising for inviting himself to the Palace. "Yet however contrite I feel," he wrote, "there is always a small voice that keeps saying 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' – well did I venture and I gained a wonderful time."

Philip proposed to her later that year, and the two married in 1947 in a ceremony that was broadcasted over the radio to 200 million people worldwide.

The couple had two children together before Elizabeth became Queen at 25. They would go on to have two more children, and the couple would enjoy the birth of eight grandchildren and six grand-grandchildren.

Royal duties took the couple across the world—Philip alone racked up over 22,000 official solo visits during decades as the Queen's consort. He retired from public duty in 2017 at the age of 96.

Aside from the variety of their royal life, what was the secret to their incredible 70-year marriage?

The royals are reticent over their private life, but the Queen hinted at her feelings towards Philip in 1997. "He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years," she said. "I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know."

Prince Philip was equally as complementary, reflecting that "the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage... You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance."

At the news that Philip has passed away, we've looked back over the couple's incredible marriage, paying tribute to a love which weathered difficult circumstances even in the public eye. This is the story of a true royal romance.

The Queen poses with her husband and their children Charles and Anne in October 1950. AFP