The Truth About Queen Elizabeth's Marriage

The love story between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is, well, a unique one. The pair first met as children in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark and Prince George, but it wasn't until a few years later, at the coronation of Elizabeth's father, George VI, that Elizabeth developed a crush on her third cousin and naval cadet, Prince Philip of Greece (via Biography). Elizabeth was completely smitten, according to Philip's cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, who told Vogue that a 13-year old Elizabeth "never from that moment thought of anybody else" after seeing Philip again during a visit to Dartmouth Naval College with her parents. "It was a real love match."

Hicks revealed that Elizabeth's parents were "appalled" by the potential pairing, but their love wouldn't be denied. In 2017, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, proving the love match was real. Sadly, Prince Philip died at age 99 on April 9, 2021, with the queen expressing her "deep sorrow" over the loss in the royal family's official announcement.

While celebrating fifty years of marriage in 1997, Elizabeth called Philip "my strength and stay all these years." She continued, "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." That's love, baby. How did they last so long? Let's put a kettle on and discuss the truth about Queen Elizabeth's marriage.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's wedding took the cake

The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten took place on Nov. 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. In front of 2,000 guests, the ceremony was recorded by BBC radio and broadcast to 200 million people around the globe (via Royal). The wedding had 91 singers and Elizabeth's wedding dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell after he submitted several designs. However, this wasn't just an ordinary dress.

Due to rationing and austerity measures post-WWII, Elizabeth had to use clothing rationing coupons to pay for her dress. According to British Heritage, the government allowed her "200 extra ration coupons" and she was flooded with "hundreds of clothing coupons by brides-to-be from all parts of the country" who wanted to help her pay for the special day. However, they had to be returned since it was illegal for coupons to be given away.

And the cake? According to House & Garden, guests enjoyed a "9ft-tall, 500lb fruitcake" made by donated ingredients flown in from Australia and South Africa. "The cake produced 2000 slices for guests, with hundreds further sent with hand-written notes to various charities and organizations," the publication said. The cake was recreated in the 2017 documentary A Very Royal Wedding, and the ingredients included "60lb of butter, 55lb of sugar, 75lb of flour, 660 eggs, 80 oranges and lemons, 300lb of dried nuts and fruits, and three-and-a-half gallons of Navy rum; 150lb of marzipan and 110lb of icing sugar."

Prince Philip had to give up a lot to marry Queen Elizabeth

Many love songs and poems have been written about what people give up for love, but the late Prince Philip could have written several of his own. In order marry to Elizabeth, according to Biography, Philip had to become a naturalized British citizen and give up his Greek and Danish royal titles "and place in the line of succession to the Greek throne." He was also not allowed to invite his sisters to the wedding since they were married to men who had been senior officials in the Nazi Party. Big yikes.

In order to fulfill his duties as Prince consort, Philip was required to abandon his Naval career, and walk behind Elizabeth in public. "I thought I was going to have a career in the Navy, but it became obvious there was no hope," he said. "There was no choice. It just happened. You have to make compromises. That's life. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it."

Once Elizabeth became queen, Philip's uncle, Dickie Mountbatten, said, "The House of Mountbatten now reigns." It did not. Queen Mary, and then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill, convinced Elizabeth "that she and her descendants would rule as the House of Windsor." Philip didn't take the news well. "I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children," he told friends. "I am nothing but a bloody amoeba."

King George VI's letter to Queen Elizabeth will melt hearts

The relationship between a father and his daughters can be complicated, but King George VI's love for his two daughters was a well-documented exception. "Lilibet [Elizabeth's nickname] is my pride, Margaret my joy," he was fond of saying (via Biography). The remarkably close relationship between King VI and his eldest daughter was expressed in a letter he wrote to her days after her marriage to Philip.

"I was so proud and thrilled at having you so close to me on our long walk in Westminster Abbey. But when I handed your hand to the Archbishop, I felt I had lost something very precious. You were so calm and composed during the service and said your words with such conviction that I knew everything was alright," he wrote, in a transcript released by The Royal Family. King George VI told his Elizabeth he watched her "grow up all these years with pride," and that he could "count" on her to continue his legacy as the eventual ruler of England.

"Your leaving us has left a great blank in our lives. But do remember that your old home is still yours and do come back to it as much and as often as possible," he continued. "I can see that you are sublimely happy with Philip, which is right, but don't forget us, is the wish of your ever-loving and devoted... Papa." Somebody chopping onions in here? 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's marriage was 'strained'

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip might have been married for over seven decades, but the first years of their marriage got off to a rocky start. It was a different time in 1947, and men weren't used to being married to powerful women, much less a queen.

"This extremely active enthusiastic young man who suddenly finds his whole life is going to be taken away from him and probably thinking he will become a 'yes man' for the rest of his life," Prince Philip's cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, said in National Geographic documentary Being the Queen. "This really devastated their lives, actually, as a married couple." Philip's friend, Larry Adler added, "I was at his bachelor party the night before the wedding to Princess Elizabeth. He was scared. His face was white. This man just began to realize what he was getting into."

Philip had a difficult time transitioning into the role. "I think he had to find his way ... I'm sure it was very strained at first and for someone like Philip to acquiesce to the nation and basically give up his bride to the world and take a backseat to everything that's going on," the documentary's executive producer Tom Jennings tells Us Weekly in during an episode of Royally Us. "I think he managed to get through it, but I'm sure it was a very strained time for them."

Prince Philip had a unique pet name for Queen Elizabeth

We assume every couple has pet names for each other, and when it came to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip was no different. In the 2006 film The Queen, there is a moment where a royal nickname became public knowledge. In the scene, while Philip (James Cromwell) is climbing into bed, he tells Elizabeth (Helen Mirren), "move over, Cabbage."  The screenwriter of the film, Peter Morgan, apparently did his homework. "I inquired in royal circles and was told on very good authority that that is what the duke sometimes calls the queen," he told The Sunday Times.

We know what you're thinking. Why cabbage? "Some have speculated that the pet name comes from mon petit chou, a French way of saying 'my darling,'" Reader's Digest explains. "In English, though, the term translates literally to 'my little cabbage,' though it actually comes from a shortened term for the pastry chou à la crème."

Philip wasn't the only one in the family with an affectionate nickname for the queen. In the documentary The Queen at Ninety, Kate Middleton revealed that the queen's great-grandson, Prince George has one as well. "George is only 2 ½ and he calls her 'Gan-Gan,'" Kate said in 2016 (via People). "She always leaves a little gift or something in their room when we go and stay, and that just shows her love for her family."

A fight between the royal couple was caught on camera

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip took great pains not to pack on the PDA for the public, and they definitely kept their arguments away from the ever-present media. Except one. According to the Express, the royal couple had a fight in public during their eight-week tour Australia in 1954 that was captured on camera by sheer accident.

No one knows exactly what started the fight, but an Australian film crew where rolling when "Prince Philip charged through the front door of the royal couple's chalet" followed by Queen Elizabeth who was hurling "abuse" at her husband as well as a tennis racket. She then reportedly "dragged" him back inside and slammed the door shut. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

You can almost picture in your mind the crew's shock when Elizabeth appeared and said: "'I'm sorry for that little interlude but, as you know, it happens in every marriage. Now, what would you like me to do?” The pubic spate never saw the light of day because the crew "handed over footage" and it disappeared forever. TMZ has to be upset they didn't exist back then.

Prince Philip apparently wasn't afraid of 'gaffes'

While Queen Elizabeth is known for being reserved in public, Prince Philip was anything but. The man had so many gaffes there is even a book about them titled Prince Philip: Wise Words and Golden GaffesThe man simply said whatever came to his mind. But let's be honest, the word "gaffe" is doing a lot of work here. When Prince Philip spoke in public, it more than occasionally included sexist or racist remarks.

In 2011, on his 90th birthday, The Independent compiled 90 of Philip's most famous (and infamous) "gaffes." He told a British student while visiting China that if he stayed too long he would "go home with slitty eyes." To a wheelchair-bound nursing home resident? "Do people trip over you?" He told a teenager who dreamed of becoming an astronaut that she should lose "a little bit of weight." When asked if he would ever visit the Soviet Union, he replied, "I would like to go to Russia very much — although the bastards murdered half my family" (the Soviet Union were fighting The Nazis). During a visit to the Aboriginal Cultural Park in Australia in 2002, he asked Aboriginal leader William Brin, "Do you still throw spears at each other?" Yikes. 

However, Queen Elizabeth apparently didn't mind. During her Christmas broadcast in 2017, she said that Philip's "unique sense of humor" was "as strong as ever." Yikes again.

Was Prince Philip unfaithful?

Allegations of infidelity earlier in his marriage to Queen Elizabeth plagued Prince Philip for their entire relationship. According to Town & Country, there's no concrete proof that Philip cheated, but he was rumored to have been involved with numerous women over the years including, "TV personality Katie Boyle, singer Hélène Cordet, actress Merle Oberon, novelist Daphne du Maurier, Princess Alexandra (the Queen's cousin), and the Duchess of Abercorn."

Most notably, however, was the beautiful stage actor Pat Kirkwood. She vehemently denied the rumors, but Prince Philip would neither confirm nor deny them. "A lady is not normally expected to defend her honor," she once told a journalist (via The Telegraph). "It is the gentleman who should do that. I would have had a happier and easier life if Prince Philip, instead of coming uninvited to my dressing room, had gone home to his pregnant wife on the night in question." Ouch.

Philip's former private secretary, Mike Parker, told The Telegraph in 2014 that Philip "has been one hundred percent faithful to the Queen." And as The Independent noted, when he was asked by a journalist about the cheating rumors, Philip responded, "Good God, woman. Have you ever stopped to think that for years, I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me? So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?" 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip led separate lives

At the time of Prince Philip's death, he and Queen Elizabeth II had been married for 73 years. That's a long time, and in any marriage, the bliss sometimes turns into "I love you, but I want you to get out of my face." So while the two shared a roof in Buckingham Palace, they didn't share a bed. However, according to Prince Philip's first cousin Lady Pamela, the royal couple slept separately out of tradition

What tradition, you may ask? "In England, the upper class always has had separate bedrooms. You don't want to be bothered with snoring or someone flinging a leg around," she said in Sally Bedell Smith's 2011 biography, Elizabeth the Queen. "Then when you are feeling cozy you share your room sometimes. It is lovely to be able to choose."

The Daily Beast reported in 2017 that Prince Philip retired from public life and moved out of the couple's primary residence due to his "dislike for Buckingham Palace." Since Philip's withdrawal from public life, he was said to have "divid[ed] his time between Windsor Castle" and a "former farm manager's cottage" at Wood Farm located in their country retreat, Sandringham. According to The Daily Mail, Philip spent his day on the farm reading and painting. "The Queen feels the Duke has earned a proper retirement," a courtier told the publication. "Being at Wood Farm means he's not too far away, but far enough to be able to relax."

Did Megxit put a strain on their relationship?

In news that shocked the Royal Family and the world, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, announced on Instagram in January 2020 that they would "step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent." Dubbed "Megxit" by international media due to the fact that many believed Markle was the driving force behind the announcement, the couple's decision to step down as royals were reportedly motivated by the racism Markle faced and a hostile British press.

"Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much loved members of my family," Queen Elizabeth said in a statement. "I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life." She added, "It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life." What a beautiful statement.

Privately, however, the Queen (and by extension, Prince Philip) were, as Phil Dampier claimed to The Telegraph (via Express), "absolutely devastated" and felt "betrayed" by Markle's accusation that she was "undefended by the institution" of the Royal Family during the media onslaughts. "Some in royal circles have even started to wonder whether the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will ever see their one-year-old great-grandson Archie again amid the escalating row," Royal editor Camilla Tominey wrote. We assume this situation took a toll on Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.