The secrets of the Queen and Philip’s 72-year marriage

Prince Philip turns 99 today!

The Queen and Phillip
(Image credit: PA)

The Queen's marriage to Prince Phillip is the longest of any British Sovereign, so what are the secrets behind their reunion?

  • Living separately for some time has helped the Royal duo have a stronger bond
  • Sharing a love of travel and adventure to bring joy to those experiences
  • The Duke's sense of humour has helped them see the fun side of life

First meeting

Elizabeth and Philip first met back in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (Philip’s cousin) and Prince George, Duke of Kent (Elizabeth’s uncle). Elizabeth was just eight years old at the time. Five years later when Elizabeth was 13 and Philip was 18 the couple met again at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. It was there, reportedly, that they experienced the first sparks of a romance and began exchanging letters.

The proposal

Philip proposed to Elizabeth at the Royal family’s Balmoral Estate in the summer of 1946 with a three-carat round diamond ring – with the diamonds coming from a tiara that belonged to his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. The couple’s engagement was initially kept secret, and the official announcement was delayed until July 1947. This was reportedly at the behest of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, who said he wouldn’t give his blessing until his daughter turned 21.

The wedding

Princess Elizabeth became the 10th member of the Royal family to be married at Westminster Abbey, when she and Philip – who was made Duke of Edinburgh on the morning of the wedding – tied the knot on 20 November 1947. But their wedding didn’t pass without incident as Elizabeth’s tiara broke while she was getting ready and had to be hastily repaired.

Time to celebrate

As the longest-reigning British monarch in history, the Queen has celebrated a number of jubilees – Silver in 1977, Golden in 2002, Diamond in 2012 and Sapphire in 2017. And Prince Philip has been by the Queen’s side throughout. ‘He has been a constant strength and guide,’ she said.

Becoming Queen

Less than five years into their marriage, Elizabeth, aged 25, received the news of her father’s death and instantly ascended to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation took place just over one year later on 2 June 1953. Her husband, Philip, was forced to swear allegiance to the new Queen.


The joy of parenthood

It wasn’t long after the pair became husband and wife that they produced an heir to the throne. Prince Charles, their first child, was born in 1948 – just a year after their wedding. Princess Anne was born two years later in 1950. The couple waited a decade before having two more children – Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.

Becoming grandparents

The Royal brood is forever expanding and the Queen and Prince Philip now have eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. While the rest of the world knows Elizabeth as ‘the Queen’ or ‘Her Majesty’, the likes of Prince George and Mia Tindall simply call her ‘Gan-Gan.’

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

...So the old saying goes, and that could be true for these two as Prince Philip’s cousin revealed they sleep in separate beds. Lady Pamela Hicks said, ‘In England, the upper class always have had separate bedrooms. You don’t want to be bothered with snoring or someone flinging a leg around. Then when you are feeling cosy, you share your room sometimes.’ Since the Duke retired in 2017, the couple have largely lived separately – with Prince Philip residing at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate while the Queen spends weekdays at Buckingham Palace. However since the COVID-19 outbreak the couple have been self-isolating together at Windsor Castle.

A love of adventure

Before Elizabeth became Queen, the couple held a royal residence in Malta – where Prince Philip was stationed as a young officer in the Royal Navy – between 1949 and 1951, The couple loved life on the Mediterranean island and Malta is thought to be Her Majesty’s favourite country. In fact, the Queen is one the most well-travelled monarchs in the world, having visited more than 100 countries – often with Philip right by her side.

Overcoming hurdles together

In the 72 years they’ve been married, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have had their fair share of difficult times together. As well as surviving 1992 – which the Queen described as her ‘annus horribilis’ because of marriage breakdowns, family scandals and a fire at Windsor Castle – the couple have faced a number of close family bereavements, including the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in 2002.


Ultimately, Prince Philip gave up his career in the navy to devote his life to royal duty – yet according to Richard Fitzwilliams, his position as consort is ‘far from the role he would have chosen.’ But despite describing himself as a ‘refugee husband,’ he has always supported Her Majesty over the years. His ‘practical’ nature has meant that the Queen ‘has always known she could rely on his advice,’ and his hard-working nature saw him carry out 22,219 solo public engagements before retiring in 2017. What a team!

A sense of humour

Prince Philip is well known for his wicked sense of humour, which has no doubt kept his wife laughing all these years. In fact, when Philip was caught speeding through Central London on the day of his wedding rehearsal on 19 November 1947, he reportedly told the policeman, ‘I’m sorry, officer, but I’ve got an appointment with the Archbishop of Canterbury.’ Having attended so many Royal engagements alongside the Queen over the years, Philip also once famously described himself as ‘the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler.’

Opposites attract

Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams has claimed that Philip and Elizabeth are like chalk and cheese, that while Philip is a ‘moderniser’ the Queen is ‘resistant to change’. But opposites clearly attract. ‘This was a marriage between temperamental opposites, which has been notable, not just for its longevity, but for the marvellous mutual supportiveness that has characterised,’ he said.

Selina Maycock

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 15 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She has covered all things Entertainment for GoodtoKnow, Woman&Home and My Imperfect Life. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand.