The Queen’s marriage of seven decades has been the romance of the century, the virtual crown that has dazzled her persona more than the actual crown. It is said that Lord Mountbatten, last Viceroy of India, was in a hurry to sign the papers for Indian independence, after it was granted by the British crown, probably because he wanted to return home to the marriage of his nephew Prince Philip with Princess Elizabeth, heir apparent to the British throne.
Timeless Romance Of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
While both Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, their childhood could not have been more different. He was by birth a prince, but boomeranged across Europe, while she grew, sheltered from the world, behind palace walls, an introvert by temperament.
Necessity, on the other hand, demanded Prince Philip to be independent, strong and flexible. They were like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fitted perfectly, each complimenting the other. His many experiences and observations brought forth an understanding of human nature and his ready wit and anecdotes amused the queen adding resilience and beauty to their seven-decade-old marriage.
From romance and rendezvous to marriage
A series of tragedies (father left for Monte Carlo and mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and placed in an asylum) left Prince Philip in the care of his maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who played cupid while introducing his nephew to Princess Elizabeth at a family wedding in 1934.
It is reported that when Princess Elizabeth visited the Britannia Royal Naval College with King George VI, she could not take her eyes off their handsome escort Prince Philip, who was then a young cadet.
The royal romance began, letters exchanged between occasional visits, but stayed in the shadows as the threat of WWII loomed large. The romance and the rendezvous soon blossomed into a marriage that came like the first burst of a shower after the harsh and unyielding summer of WWII.
It was the first celebration in England after losing many colonies and men in and during the aftermath of WWII. Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth got married in an extravagant ceremony that gave some cheer to a country trying to get on its feet.
It was the beginning of the ‘Romance of the Century’, which the then Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill described as the, “a flash of color on the hard road we have to travel.”
The romance continued in Malta where Prince Philip progressed rapidly through the ranks of the Navy, having distinguished himself during WWII. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer, HMS Whelp, where he saw service with the British Pacific fleet.
The first few years of her married life saw Princess Elizabeth living a relatively simpler life far away from the intrigues of Windsor.
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A marriage that stood the test of time
Five years later, she was suddenly thrust into the limelight when her father King George VI died somewhat prematurely. Prince Philip had to give up his ambitions within the Royal Navy where he had reached the rank of a commander.
Their future positions became apparent when Prince Philip bent down before the queen during Elizabeth’s coronation and went on to become the longest-serving royal consort in British history. While there were initial hiccups, the couple attuned themselves and deftly handled their many responsibilities.
The Monarchy has weathered many storms and the British empire has shriveled. Amid it all, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s marriage has been the rare constant. An exchange of glance, a small smile, a look which they always had for each other amidst the many duties they performed, is what makes their marriage so appealing.
Prime Ministers and Head of States have come and gone but for the global community, Windsor Castle’s appeal and family drama continue to enthrall and appeal. The royal marriage, a timeless romance that has been woven into the fabric of the nation, keeping alive the ethos of dreams and chivalry, an unparalleled saga of love and commitment of growing and living together, of handholding in the toughest moments and basking in each other’s company in better times, of enjoying their children and horses and sighing and wondering about their parenting as their children face disillusionment in their marriages.
While they maintained different interests, she spent time amongst race trainers and breeders and he was a prolific sportsman and could often be seen riding carriages around Windsor Great Park or Sandringham. It is easy to picture them always having a cocktail of interesting experiences and perspectives to share on the dining table.
The marriage saw four children, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. As Queen Elizabeth continued her ways unruffled publicly, her husband of 73 years at her side until recently. The British empire’s reach has ebbed, the royalty diminished in authority, yet the charm still exists, in great part cannot because of the sanctity accorded by the Queen and her husband.
Queen Elizabeth has gradually shown more flexibility in her demeanor. On her silver jubilee, she walked on the streets of London accepting the wishes of her people. While she is the sovereign of her nation, Prince Philip took an interest in domestic affairs, making decisions on the education of their children and other important domestic matters while always mindful that he sat after the monarch and queen mother during state dinners.
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Prince Philip – An indispensable part of the monarchy
Prince Philip had wide-ranging interests from affiliation with more than 800 charitable organizations. He was attuned to the pulse of the nation and celebrated the inevitable flux. In 1958, when Britannia was undergoing renovation Prince Philip realized that designers of all disciplines were crucial in helping the post-war economy.
He partnered with the Design Council to launch “The Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for Elegant Design,’ The purpose was to facilitate designers who combined both aesthetics and functionality in their designs and the awards became a stepping stone for success for many designers. The prize was discontinued in 2011 as Prince Philip began stepping away from royal duties.
He also served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement program for young people aged 14-24. Prince Philip can take credit for modernizing the monarchy and making it a more flexible and transparent institution so that it could stay relevant even today.
While both the Queen and the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill had conservative views, Prince Philip decided to have the coronation ceremony of the queen broadcasted for the first time in royal history. The sale of TV sets spiked and 27 million people across the United Kingdom and millions around the globe watched the event.
The royal weddings, particularly Prince Charles’ and Prince William’s had an outstanding global audience, bringing in cheer and moolah for Britain and justifying the expenditure on the crown. A UK-based brand valuation firm, Brand Finance, estimated the Royal family’s contribution to the media industry at nearly 70 million pounds in 2018.
The Monarchy is the public face of a 28 billion pound empire that pumps hundreds of millions of pounds into the United Kingdom’s economy every year. The lavish televised weddings (the boost to the U.K. economy from Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding was an estimated 1.5 billion pounds), tours of Commonwealth countries and public display of pomp generated massive interest. Brand Finance, a U.K.-based brand valuation firm estimated that the royal contribution to the media industry, three years ago, was 70 million pounds.
The royal family does instigate a lot of tourism to England and free media coverage was an estimated 400 million pounds in 2017, according to Haigh. The royal approval of products like Barbour jackets and Johnnie Walker whisky boosted the holder’s revenue by 10 percent. The income that they bring to the treasury exceeds the 500 million pounds cost associated with their expenses.
The unwritten Constitution of England setting no rules on the etiquette expected from the Consort, yet Prince Philip has found his way and left a high benchmark for potential successors who too might have to grapple through the labyrinth of duties. He has played a pivotal role in making the monarchy commercially viable.
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Prince Philip leaves behind a nation in mourning
Prince Philip maintained that the monarchy existed not in the interest of the monarch but in the interest of the people. Queen Elizabeth has been the sovereign who has commanded respect and devotion because she has held herself with utmost dignity while responding to the changing times with poise.
She declared during their 50th-anniversary celebration that Prince Philip “has simply been her strength and stay all these years.” The demise of Prince Philip has ushered in national mourning.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson while paying his tribute summed up the national sentiment with these words, “He helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
He significantly modernized the monarchy and adapted it to changing times. The queen surely must have missed the bouquet of white blooms that he always gave her on birthdays but the memory of the man who unfailingly gave them every year, the diehard romantic and gentleman that Prince Philip was, will always have a special place in her and the nation’s heart.