Princess Elizabeth, born 21 April 1926, was the first child of Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, in December 1936 meant her father became King George VI and she became heir.
Philip Mountbatten was born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark on June 10 1921 on Corfu. He is a descendant of the Danish-German house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. His early years were spent in France, after the family’s exile from Greece and Philip went to England in 1928.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria. They are second cousins, once removed. The Queen is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria’s eldest son King Edward VII and the Duke of Edinburgh is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice.
The courtship and engagement
In 1939, King George VI toured the Royal Naval College with his family. Philip, who was training there, escorted the two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. The 13-year-old Elizabeth developed a crush on Philip during the trip and they began to exchange letters. In the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The king agreed, provided that any formal engagement was delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday. To prepare for the announcement, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, took on the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, adopted Anglicanism as a religion and became a British subject. The engagement was announced to the public on July 10, 1947.
The couple were married on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey in front of two thousand guests. On the morning of the wedding, Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Elizabeth took the title of her husband and became Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh.
As the wedding was so soon after the war, Philip’s four older sisters were not invited as they had married into German aristocracy. The former King, now the Duke of Windsor, was also not invited. The ceremony was broadcast throughout the world on radio to two-hundred million listeners.
Elizabeth’s wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was a duchesse satin bridal gown with motifs of star lilies and orange blossoms. As rationing continued long after the end of the second world war, Princess Elizabeth had to use ration coupons to obtain the material for her dress. Elizabeth did her own make-up and though her tiara broke whilst she was getting ready, it was fixed in time.
Princess Elizabeth was attended by eight bridesmaids, including her younger sister HRH The Princess Margaret. Her cousins Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent served as page boys.
The wedding ceremony was officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, and the Archbishop of York, Cyril Garbett.
William Neil McKie, the Australian organist and Master of the Choristers at the abbey, was the director of music and also wrote a motet for the occasion. The couple left the Abbey to Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”.
The couple went to Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast after the ceremony where they waved from the balcony to large crowds. They spent their wedding night in Broadlands, Hampshire, the home of Philip’s uncle, Earl Louis Mountbatten. The rest of their honeymoon was spent at Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate.
After the wedding
Son Charles was born in 1948 and daughter Anne was born in 1950. In 1960 the couple had son Andrew and in 1964 son Edward.
On February 6, 1952, King George VI died, and Elizabeth assumed the responsibilities of the ruling monarch. Her official coronation took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey. For the first time, the ceremony was broadcast on television as well as radio.
On the advice of Winston Churchill, and against the wishes of Philip Mountbatten, Elizabeth retained the crown’s title of “House of Windsor”. The family name was first used at Princess Anne’s wedding to Mark Phillips in 1973, when Anne signed the marriage register as Mountbatten-Windsor.
The royal wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer took place on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral in London. The day was declared a national holiday in the UK. The wedding was attended by three-and-a-half thousand guests, including many members of royal families from across the world, heads of state and Charles and Diana’s families.