On November 20, 1997, the night of her 50th wedding anniversary, Queen Elizabeth II made a speech in front of Tony Blair and dozens of distinguished guests at London’s Banqueting House. It was relatively short and succinct, as her speeches usually are. And much of it was quite, well, run-of-the-mill: she thanked the prime minister for hosting that evening’s festivities and acknowledged the country as a whole for supporting the couple during her reign. But, at the end of her speech, she spoke of her husband, Prince Philip, with profound and uncharacteristic emotion: “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments, but 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.” Twenty-four years later, the royal family announced that Prince Philip had passed away peacefully at the age of 99 on the morning of April 9 at Windsor Castle.
The Queen and Prince Philip’s relationship was one of love, respect, and long-lasting admiration. They first met at Britannia Royal Naval College in 1939, where an 18-year-old cadet Philip was introduced to a 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth of England while she was touring the grounds. From then, it’s said, the young royal never thought of anybody else. The two began to exchange letters through the war years. Upon his return from the Pacific theatre in 1946, his relationship with the future Queen blossomed. It’s presumed that he proposed that June, on the grounds of Balmoral. “To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to readjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty,” he wrote in a letter dated from that year.
Despite his stately title, there was originally some resistance about the marriage from the crown. Many thought Philip to be too brusque, too unpolished, too German, too Greek, too… un-English to marry Princess Elizabeth. But Elizabeth was insistent. A formal announcement was made in July 1947, bearing Philip’s new anglicised last name: Mountbatten. Months later, he renounced his right to the Greek and Danish thrones.
That November, they wed in front of 2,000 people at Westminster Abbey. “I wonder if Philip knows what he is taking on,” King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, was heard saying to a guest. “One day Lilibet will be queen and he will be consort. That’s much harder than being a king, but I think he’s the man for the job.”
Prince Philip, undoubtedly, thought he had more time before his wife became queen and he consort. The young couple lived for a few years in Malta, where Philip was stationed. They had two children, Charles and Anne. But King George fell ill, then grew sicker and died in 1952. Philip broke the news to his wife that, a mere five years after they were wed, they were now the most famous people in the world. At the Queen’s coronation in 1953, he kneeled before her and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb”.
That, for Philip, was easier said than done. Accounts during the ’50s and ’60s paint Philip as a man adrift with alleged affairs and anger. He was unsure of his place, his role, his life. But eventually he found his way, crafting his own legacy while steadfastly supporting his wife. Turns out King George was right: he was, indeed, the man for his job.
Below, we revisit the Queen and Prince Philip’s life in pictures, from their Westminster Abbey wedding to their idyllic weekends at Balmoral and the Duke’s final birthday at Windsor.
The first official picture after the announcement of the engagement of then Princess Elizabeth and then Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.
The Duke of Edinburgh celebrating his stag night with navy colleagues on the eve of his wedding to Queen Elizabeth.
The then Princess Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey on their wedding day, 20 November 1947.
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace after their wedding.
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in Malta, where they lived after their wedding while he was in the Royal Navy.
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at the christening of Princess Anne in October 1950.
Princess Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, in August 1951.
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh attend a polo match at Nyeri in Kenya on 3 February 1952 – days before the death of her father, King George VI, an event that would change their lives forever.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave to the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace after her coronation in June 1953.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip pose with Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, dressed in full regalia, in Buckingham Palace’s Throne Room.
Queen Elizabeth filming, with Prince Philip looking on, while in the South Pacific en route to Fiji in December 1953.
The Queen and her husband chat during his polo match in June 1956. The Duke was an avid polo player for much of his life.
The royal family at Balmoral in September 1960.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Delhi during a state visit to India in January 1961.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip wave as they leave Liverpool after attending the ice show Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in May 1961.
During a February 1966 royal visit, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip wave from an open-top convertible to onlookers in Nassau, Bahamas.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip watch competitors at the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire from a Land Rover in 1968.
The Queen and Prince Philip fly back from a visit to Yorkshire in 1969. This photo was taken during the filming of the then groundbreaking documentary The Royal Family.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Balmoral in 1972.
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh relaxing at Balmoral in 1976, with a corgi sitting by their feet.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after Prince Charles’s July 1981 wedding to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Sandringham on the 30th anniversary of her reign in 1982.
The Queen and Prince Philip pose for a portrait in Windsor Castle’s Green Room to mark their 40th anniversary.
Prince Philip holds Queen Elizabeth’s hand during the State Opening of Parliament.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip laugh during the procession for the annual Garter Ceremony in Windsor.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip pay their respects at a service for Princess Diana at the Chapel Royal in September 1997. Her state funeral was the next day.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip revisit Broadlands, the former home of Philip’s beloved uncle Louis Mountbatten on 20 November 2007. Sixty years prior, the couple had honeymooned there after their wedding.
Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, and the entire extended Windsor family wave to the crowds from the Buckingham Palace balcony on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day in April 2011.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip watch Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on their May 2018 wedding day.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s official portrait in honor of the duke’s 99th birthday.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk