True Romance July, 1953.
“The fact that her subjects are happy is a tribute to Elizabeth, the Queen. That her husband is happy is a tribute to Elizabeth, the woman.”
When Princess Elizabeth of England and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh began their married life in 1947, the world knew that here were two people deeply in love. Their romance had begun some four years earlier, in the dark days of the war. Elizabeth, well aware of her responsibilities as a future Queen, still had followed her own heart when it came to choosing a husband, and her marriage to Philip was above everything else a love match.
As Elizabeth and Philip stood together in Westminster Abbey to be married, be-hind them were the long months of waiting. Months when their youthful impatience had to be curbed while the way was being paved for them to be together. For this was not an ordinary marriage. This was the marriage of a future queen to her consort-to-be and every precaution had to be taken to he sure Philip would be acceptable to Elizabeth’s subjects.
Repeated denials were issued in answer to rumors of their engagement, while, behind the scenes, all the obstacles to their marriage were being patiently removed. First, Philip had to give up his title as Prince of Greece and his Greek citizenship and become plain Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. It was only then that Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, could give him the British title of Duke of Edinburgh, and prepare the way for their wedding.
But if the whole world knew that Elizabeth and Philip were very much in love only those closest to them were aware of the inner qualities which each brought to their marriage. This is a marriage unlike any other marriage in the world, one in which the wife’s position would force her to come first always to take the spotlight while her husband stood aside.
Long ago, when she was a child, Elizabeth said to her governess and friend. Miss Marion Crawford, ”When I get married, Crawfie, I shall make my husband as happy as Mummy has made Papa.” She couldn’t have known then how difficult such a task would be. Today she knows. But she must know, too, that she has kept word.
Keeping her word is one of Queen Elizabeth’s habits. Again and again, when a has promised to appear somewhere, or something, she has carried out her promise in spite of illness, weariness, or special circumstances which most people would feel gave them good reason for begging off. An incident which took place a few months after her marriage illustrates this trait.
Elizabeth has always feared and dislike the sea. She has more than her share personal bravery, but something about the immensity of the ocean spells danger to her. All her life she has had to fight this weakness, because as a member of the Royal Family she must often travel by water.
On this particular occasion an aid; visit was planned for Elizabeth and Phil to visit the Channel Islands. During the war these English possessions off the coast of France had been occupied by the Nazis and the Royal visit was being eagerly awaited by the islanders.
But the day of the visit, an angry wind whipped the water of the English Channel into towering waves, and by the time Elizabeth’s ship reached the island of Sark, she was white and almost fainting with seasickness. The ship had to anchor off-shore, and between it and land was a strip of rough sea which could only be crossed in a small boat.
“Are you sure you’re well enough to go ashore?” Philip asked Elizabeth anxiously.
Too ill to speak, she could only look up at him and nod. If she had spoken, Philip knew what she would have said, as she had said on so many other occasions: ‘I can’t disappoint all those people.”
With Philip’s hand steadying her, Elizabeth made her way down the ship’s ladder and safely into the small boat, which rose and fell dizzyingly on the waves. At the pier, to disembark, it was necessary for Elizabeth to jump from the boat at the exact moment a wave lifted it up level with the stone pavement. Twice she tried to leap ashore, but each time she hesitated a moment too long, until after the boat had started to sink again into the trough of the wave. On the third attempt, Philip gave her a push at precisely the right moment, and she flew into a waiting aide’s arms.
The only doctor on the island, who was in the welcoming party, saw Elizabeth’s paleness and said, “Your Royal Highness ought to rest awhile.” But Elizabeth shook her head.
“I shall be all right,” she said. Then she set out on the tour of inspection the island people had arranged for her.
This quiet but intense awareness of her responsibilities is one of the many reasons for Elizabeth’s popularity as Queen. When, six or seven months after her marriage, the news leaked out that she was expecting a child, the people of England were pleased, but not surprised. The general feeling was that Princess Elizabeth knew perfectly well that one of her duties was to provide an heir to the throne of England, and was attending to the job without delay.
And when, a few days before her first wedding anniversary, Prince Charles was born, it seemed perfectly natural that her first child should be a boy, and that her second child Princess Anne, should he born the following year. As one British nobleman expressed it, “I always knew her first child would be a son, because Elizabeth always does the right thing. She’ll never let us down.”
Nor has Elizabeth let her husband down either. Just as she is a woman as well as a queen, she knows that Philip is an extremely masculine man as well as a royal consort. She could not love him so much if he were different. Wisely, instead of trying to change him, she has encouraged him to use these qualities for their mutual benefit.
Someone has defined a Queen’s husband as “a man who must behave like a King but never be one.” For Philip can have no hand in the business of government. The state papers which come to Elizabeth every day are for her eyes only. Many are so secret that she cannot even discuss them with him, and so there is part of Elizabeth’s life from which Philip must be forever shut out.
But Philip is, actually, not much interested in politics. As Duke of Edinburgh, he is a member of England’s House of Lords, but he has attended its meetings only two or three times—always carefully choosing a seat in a neutral section of the chamber to show that he favors no political group. He is not a profound thinker, although he can grasp any subject that interests him. He is happiest in some activity that brings him into contact with people—for he has a genuine love of humanity, and the ability to get along well with his fellow human beings.
It was on their tour of Canada together in 1951 that Philip’s ability to work with and for Elizabeth was seen most plainly. This trip was one of the most exhausting ever taken by a royal couple. In little more than a month, Elizabeth and Philip traveled clear across the width of Canada and back again, with a forty-five-hour side journey to Washington, D. C.
In addition to the strain of the trip itself, Elizabeth was worried about the health of her father, George VI, whose illness had prevented him from making this very tour. Elizabeth and Philip had gone in his place.
Time and again, as they stood for long hours shaking hands, or watching some parade or celebration, Philip’s easy good nature found a way to cut through the stiff formality of the proceedings and bring a smile to everyone’s lips. Probably the only smile he really was anxious to see was Elizabeth’s, but the result was that he charmed everyone.
Once, in Victoria, British Columbia, a teen-age girl in the crowd pretended to swoon at the sight of him. He caught sight of her and grinned. “Steady, now,” he said. And again, at a Washington reception, a pretty young woman in the reception line waiting to meet Elizabeth and Philip, murmured “Mmmm!” at sight of him. Philip heard, leaned forward, took a good look at the young woman from head to toe, and went, “Mmmmmmmmm!” in return.
In the months following their return from the Canadian tour it became increasingly apparent that Elizabeth might he called to the throne very soon. King George’s health, which had failed under the strain of the war years, became a matter for serious concern. He underwent an operation from which it was feared he might not recover. But then, late in 1951, he did recover, to the great joy of England and the members of his family But his condition was still serious.
Another tour, this time to Africa, had long been planned for the first months of 1952. If Elizabeth had been able to consult only her own wishes, she would have postponed the journey until her father was completely well again, but a Royal visit involves the efforts of too many people to cancel it, and once again Elizabeth felt she could not, must not, disappoint them all. So late in January, she and Philip left England by air, for Africa.
King George was well enough to see them off at the airport. For minutes after the plane was in the air he stood, bareheaded, looking after it—wondering perhaps if he would live to see his daughter’s return. He did not. On February 6, 1952, after a happy day spent in the open air at Sandringham Castle, he died in his sleep.
It was morning when the news reached Africa—morning of what had been planned as a busy day of sight-seeing and greeting local dignitaries. Elizabeth and Philip had been in Africa barely a week. Philip was the first to be told the news as he came out of the suite where he and Elizabeth had slept, and it was his duty to go back and break the tragic news to his wife.
An hour or so later, Philip and Elizabeth came out of their suite together. The traces of her tears were still plain on Elizabeth’s face, but she was composed and calm as a Queen should be. Immediately, she began preparations for her return to England—the first woman ever to become Queen of England on African soil. The time for her private grief was past, and she could not give way to it again.
Already, upon her return, she found waiting for her the “boxes” which represent part of a Queen’s work. These are dispatch cases, delivered twice a day, filled with papers for the reigning monarch to read or sign. Unless they are attended to immediately, the machinery of the King’s—in Elizabeth’s case, the Queen’s—government would come to a stop. For the rest of her life, these boxes will follow Elizabeth wherever she goes, even on a holiday.
But paper work is, of course, only one part of a Queen’s duties. Queen Elizabeth is up every morning at seven o’clock —an hour earlier than when she was just a princess. By nine o’clock she is at her desk, ready for the appointments which fill her day–ambassadors, photographers, dressmakers (for a Queen must always be in fashion), cabinet officers, officials frost England’s overseas dominions.
Elizabeth could not follow her crowded schedule without two priceless assets: perfect health and a keen, disciplined mind. Her mind startled at least one distinguished American citizen during the short time she and Philip were in Washington during their American tour. At a White House dinner, the Princess was seated next to Charles E. Wilson, head of General Motors who is now Secretary of Defense. Wilson was prepared to make small talk, but Elizabeth began discussing sabre jet planes.
She has a remarkable memory, not only for facts but for faces. In a small Canadian town, she was being greeted by the local big-wigs, a group which included one rather embarrassed boy-scout. Shaking, hands with him, she asked, “Didn’t I met you in London last year?” It was true; he’d been one of a delegation of scouts from all over the Empire who had been presented to her at the Palace the year before.
But Elizabeth has more than a good memory. She has a friendly consideration for other people. She is intensely aware of other people’s feelings and emotions.
She is with Philip nearly every night for dinner, and sometimes they are able to lunch together. At five o’clock she runs to the third floor of the palace to spend an hour with her children, four-year-old Prince Charles and two-year-old Princes Anne. Here, she is, for a little while, a mother, amusing her children.
Elizabeth loves children—all children-and she takes her duties as a mother no less seriously than she takes all her other duties. Her children are in the care of nurse and governess, but the Queen keeps a close watch on their training and welfare. They are being reared as she was herself with a blending of discipline and affection.
Neither Charles nor Anne is ever spanked; punishment consists of being set out of the room and being made to apologize before forgiveness is granted. Bad habits are gently but firmly discourage (as when Prince Charles discovered, at the age of one-and-a-half, it was fun to throw his toys out of his carriage onto the ground. The first time he did it, the toy was picked up and returned to him. The second time, the toy was picked up – but not returned. Prince Charles got the idea.
Philip is no different from husband everywhere in the world, as far as the children are concerned. He leaves most of their upbringing to his wife, but there are times when he steps in with a little discipline of his own. Not long ago he (decided that Prince Charles was being spoil by getting too many toys, and he ordered no more presents until Christmas.
His relationship with his children is characteristically, easy and informal. Once ready to take off from Malta for a flight to England, he delighted the crowd by saying, “I’ll be home for tea with the kids.” In contrast to Philip’s informality and friendliness, Elizabeth is gracious and serene, and small wonder, for she has been raised to be Queen. But Philip must often be galled by the list of things he must, or must not do, as the Queen’s husband. He is not supposed to pay for anything himself —an aide carries money and pays for him. He and Elizabeth may attend a theater together, or see a movie—but only if advance notice is given and the performance is considered “suitable.” If they would simply like to see a movie, a special private performance has to be arranged at the Palace.
In a few cases, Philip has rebelled against tradition or compromised with it. He sees no reason why he should have to have a chauffeur to drive him when he enjoys driving so much himself. So he lets the chauffeur have the wheel in London, but as soon as they are in the country he and the chauffeur change places, and Philip drives. He considers the round-topped, black bowler hat, which Royalty is expected to wear in public, most unbecoming and carries it in his hand.
Occasionally he performs a refreshingly un-royal exploit, like the time he and a few friends, taking a refresher naval course in Northern Ireland (which is part of England) slipped across the border into Eire, the Irish Free State. Neither England, nor members of its Royal Family are exactly popular in Eire, and Philip and his companions were recognized eating an unrationed meal of steak, eggs and French fries in a Donegal restaurant.
But Philip has his own kind of dignity, too, and he works as hard at his job as Elizabeth works at hers. He is President of the National Playing Fields Association and a patron of the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs, both activities reflecting his interest in young people and sports. He is active president of many other organizations, and conscientiously attends meetings throughout England and Scotland. He goes down into coal mines and through steel mills and up in airplane, and out to sea on ships. At his own suggestion, he lamed Chairman of the Coronation Commission, taking all the worriers concerning that enormous occasion from his busy wife. He has gained a reputation for making short, witty speeches, and is in constant demand at public affairs and large dinners. In one week he often has engagements which require him to travel hundreds of miles, make a dozen speeches, shake a thousand hands – and keep smiling.
At those appearances which Elizabeth must make as Queen, her husband is always .t her side. Often, when the public sees them standing together on the palace balcony – only, waving to the cheering crowds, smiling and happy, it is easy to imagine that underneath the railing, they are holding hands. The English people say Philip has the “common touch.” In America we’d say he’s a “regular guy.”
There are undoubtedly a few die-hard aristocrats in England who feel that both Elizabeth and Philip are too democratic, too lacking in dignity. These are the ones who were shocked at learning that after is marriage Philip began taking flying lessons. And they are the ones who criticized Elizabeth for twice leaving England while she was Princess, and joining her husband for a few weeks in Malta where he was stationed with the Royal Navy. But the ordinary people of England understand and love their young ruler and her husband all the more because they’re not afraid to show their human side. They know, these ordinary people, that a good Queen must first of all be a happy woman. And they can never doubt Elizabeth’s happiness with Philip—nor that she in her turn, has kept that childish promise she made so long ago, to make her husband “as happy as Mummy has made Papa.”
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary November 20, 2016. Queen Elizabeth is 90 (born April, 21, 1926) and Prince Philip will be 95 (born June 10, 1921).