The True Story of How Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Fell in Love

Once upon a time, a pre-teen princess met a dashing young prince. While she didn't lose her glass slipper, her heart was another matter entirely.

Britain's Princess Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh weddingAP/REX/Shutterstock

The love story of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, has all the makings of a modern fairy tale. Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in 1926, “Lilibet,” as she is called by her family, was the older daughter of the second son of the reigning King of England and therefore had no reason to think she’d ever become Queen. Philip had been born a Prince of Greece and Denmark in 1921, the nephew of the reigning King of Greece, but by the time he was two years old, his uncle had been deposed and his family exiled to France. Although they were cousins (here’s how they’re related), their lives couldn’t have been more different when they first met in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent.

The first time they met…

Eight-year-old Elizabeth was a member of the British royal family, living in a palace with her beloved parents and sister and receiving her education at home. Thirteen-year-old Philip, although descended from royal blood on both sides, lacked stability—his father had abandoned the family to live with a mistress in Monte Carlo, his mother was committed to a mental hospital with schizophrenia, and Philip was financially at the mercy of his wealthier family members who shipped him off to a boarding school they chose because it was the least expensive option.  Don’t miss these facts about the Queen you never knew.

The next time they met…

Three years later, in May of 1937, both Elizabeth and Philip attended the coronation of King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, who’d unexpectedly found himself King after the death of his father, King George V, and a year later, the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII (for the love of American divorcee, Wallis Simpson). At that point, the lives of Elizabeth and Philip began to diverge even further, with Elizabeth finding herself heir presumptive to the throne and Philip’s life taking a turn for the worse with the death of his sister, Cecile (along with her husband, two children, unborn child, and mother-in-law) in a plane crash and the death of his guardian, Lord Milford Haven, to bone cancer.

The time they fell in love…

Queen Elizabeth Ii and Her Future Husband Prince Philip of GreeceHistoria/REX/Shutterstock

It was only a matter of happenstance that the two met again in July 1939. Elizabeth, now 13, was visiting the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon with her parents and sister, and Philip, 18, who had enrolled at the school two years earlier, happened to be their sole tour-guide, but only because two other cadets had contracted mumps.

It was love at first sight, at least for the wide-eyed young teen Elizabeth, who wrote Philip letters and kept a framed photo of the handsome young man by her bed. While Philip certainly kept up his end of the correspondence, he didn’t think of it as more than an “amusing diversion,” according to Devon Live, at least initially. By Christmas of 1943, however, Philip was Elizabeth’s guest at the royal family’s Christmas celebration at Windsor Castle. These are the “facts” about Queen Elizabeth that just aren’t true.

The obstacle they had to overcome…

As with any fairy tale in which the prince and princess must overcome an obstacle before living happily ever after, the story of Elizabeth and Philip hit a bit of a snag before the happy ending. While King George VI wanted nothing more than for the happiness of his beloved “Lilibet,” he had his doubts about Philip. Not only was Philip lacking financial independence, but he was also considered a bit “rough” around the edges.

Nevertheless, by 1947, Philip had George’s permission and proposed to Elizabeth in Scotland with a ring he’d designed himself. He even renounced his birth titles, becoming Philip Mountbatten, and became a naturalized British subject. Of course, she said “yes.”

The night before the wedding, King George VI bestowed upon Philip the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich. More than 70 years later, four children, a flock of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (who the Queen made a British Prince in 1957, herself having ascended the throne in 1952 upon her father’s death) continues, the longest marriage of any British sovereign in history. Next, be sure to check out these photos of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip throughout the years.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.