Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s romance began on a perfectly gray and rainy English afternoon, in July 1939. She was just 13. He was 18, royal but penniless, and about to spend years travelling the world with the British navy. He wasn’t exactly marriage material — and he was also her third cousin. But Elizabeth fell hard and fast for Philip, with her improbable crush blossoming into the monarchy’s longest marriage; Elizabeth and Philip celebrate seventy years as husband and wife today.
Their story began when Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret accompanied their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, on a two day visit to England’s Dartmouth Naval College, their father’s alma mater. An outbreak of the mumps altered the prearranged itinerary drawn up for the princesses; they could do their outdoor tree planting, but the girls had to skip a chapel service with pews full of potentially infectious cadets.
What were Elizabeth and Margaret to do? They were sent off to the college headmaster’s house, and it was there that their cadet cousin Philip, with whom they shared a great-great-grandmother in Queen Victoria, entered the picture. The princesses’ governess Marion Crawford detailed what happened next in her gossipy memoir The Little Princesses. Philip strutted into the scene looking less like a Greek god and more like a “viking” with his fair hair and blue eyes. Bored at the idea of sitting around indoors, he suggested that the royal party relocate outside to the Dartmouth tennis courts. Already, Elizabeth couldn’t take her eyes off him. He was outgoing and athletic, impressing the girls by jumping clear over the nets. “How high he can jump,” observed a dazzled Elizabeth. Read more