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Queen Victoria and her husband had been even closer: In other ways, Philip was an outlier with a decidedly unconventional background. Philip could boast none of their extensive landholdings, and in fact had very little money. Although he was born on June 10, , on the isle of Corfu, Philip spent scarcely a year in Greece before the entire royal family was expelled in a coup. His parents took him, along with his four older sisters, to Paris, where they lived rent-free in a house owned by wealthy relatives.
A proud professional soldier with an extroverted personality and a quick wit, Prince Andrew found himself at loose ends, while Alice properly known as Princess Andrew of Greece after her wedding had difficulty managing a large family, not least because she was congenitally deaf. She eventually moved to Athens and established a Greek Orthodox order of nuns.
He left Cheam in to spend one year at Salem, a boarding school in Germany run by a progressive Jewish educator named Kurt Hahn. Six feet tall, with intense blue eyes, chiseled features, and blond hair, Philip was an Adonis as well as athletic and engaging, exuding confidence and a touch of impudence. He was a resourceful and energetic self-starter, yet he was also something of a loner, with a scratchy defensiveness that sprang from emotional deprivation.
As cousins, Philip and young Elizabeth had crossed paths twice, first at a family wedding in and then at the coronation of King George VI in At the behest of Dickie Mountbatten, an officer in the Royal Navy, Philip was invited to have lunch and tea with the royal family. While everything else in the life of Lilibet was laid out for her, she made the most important decision on her own. During the war years, Philip came to visit his cousins occasionally at Windsor Castle, and he and the princess corresponded when he was at sea, serving with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
All he left his year-old son were some trunks containing clothing, an ivory shaving brush, cuff links, and a signet ring that Philip would wear for the rest of his life.
While Philip was completing his deployment in the Far East, Lilibet enjoyed the freedom of the postwar period. Philip finally returned to London in March He was a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, roaring into the side entrance in a black MG sports car to join Lilibet in her sitting room for dinner, with Crawfie acting as duenna. During a month-long stay at Balmoral late in the summer of , Philip proposed to Elizabeth, and she accepted on the spot, without even consulting her parents.
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Her father consented on the condition that they keep their engagement a secret until it could be announced after her 21st birthday, the following April. Palace courtiers and aristocratic friends and relatives of the royal family viewed Philip suspiciously as a penniless interloper. They were irked that he seemed to lack proper deference toward his elders. Even though his mother had been born in Windsor Castle, and he had been educated in England and served admirably in the British Navy, Philip had a distinctly Continental flavor, and he lacked the clubby proclivities of the Old Etonians.
A man of ideas and appealing complexity, he was a breath of fresh air to the heiress presumptive. It was clear that he would not be easy, but he would certainly not be boring. He shared her commitment to duty and service, but he also had an irreverence that could help lighten her official burdens at the end of a tiring day.
His life had been as unfettered as hers had been structured, and he was unencumbered by the properties and competing responsibilities of a landed British aristocrat. She was fun to take dancing or to the theater. Philip was an usher, and when the royal family arrived, he escorted them from their car. The princess turned as she removed her fur coat, and the cameras caught them gazing at each other lovingly. But no official confirmation followed, and the couple kept up an active social life. But he was only one among many young men to dance with the heiress presumptive.
He had been working as an instructor at the Naval Staff College, in Greenwich, and with the help of Dickie Mountbatten had secured his British citizenship in February , giving up his title as H. Prince Philip of Greece. Rather, he worried that he would be relinquishing other aspects of his life that were meaningful. Outside Westminster Abbey, tens of thousands of spectators gathered in freezing temperatures to welcome the princess and her father in the Irish State Coach.
Two thousand guests enjoyed the splendor of the After the hour-long service, the bride and groom led a procession down the nave that included the crowned heads of Norway, Denmark, Romania, Greece, and Holland.
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The estranged Windsors were living in Paris, unwelcome in London except for periodic visits. Although their exile may have seemed harsh, George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and their advisers had seen no alternative. A king and former king living in the same country would have resulted in two rival courts. While the bells of the abbey pealed, Elizabeth and Philip were driven to Buckingham Palace in the Glass Coach, preceded and followed by two regiments of the Household Cavalry on horseback.
It was the most elaborate public display since the war, and the crowds responded with ecstatic cheers. The tables were decorated with pink and white carnations, as well as small keepsake bouquets of myrtle and white Balmoral heather at each place setting. They spent a week at Broadlands, the Mountbatten estate in Hampshire, and two weeks in snowbound seclusion at Birkhall, an earlyth-century white stone lodge on the Balmoral estate, set in the woods on the banks of the river Muick. She also sent her parents tender letters thanking them for all they had given her, and the example they had set.
Philip is an angel—he is so kind and thoughtful. I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me. The honeymooners were back in London in time for the 52nd birthday of King George VI, on December 14, ready to begin their new life.
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They chose to live in Clarence House, the 19th-century residence adjacent to St. But the house needed extensive renovations, so they moved temporarily into an apartment in Buckingham Palace. Philip had a paper-pushing job at the Admiralty, to which he would walk on weekdays. By May , Elizabeth was four months pregnant, and behind closed doors was suffering from nausea. Even so, she and Philip kept up an active social life.
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They went to the races at Epsom and Ascot and joined friends at restaurants, nightclubs, and dances. He leapt about and jumped into the air as he greeted everybody. When they were with friends such as Rupert and Camilla Nevill and John and Patricia Brabourne, the royal couple showed an easy affection toward each other. Philip passed the time playing squash with three courtiers. When the family moved into Clarence House, early in the summer of , Elizabeth and Philip had adjacent, connecting bedrooms.
Then when you are feeling cozy you share your room sometimes. It is lovely to be able to choose. That October, Philip resumed active service when he was appointed first lieutenant and second-in-command of the destroyer H. Chequers, based on the small island nation of Malta, in the Mediterranean, which had been part of the British Empire since and served as an important shipping center and outpost for the Mediterranean Fleet. She had expert nannies in charge, not to mention her own parents, who were eager to keep their grandson company. Elizabeth would visit Malta for long stretches of time, returning at intervals to Clarence House.
Beyond minimal royal obligations, Elizabeth was given unaccustomed freedom and anonymity. Dickie Mountbatten was commanding the First Cruiser Squadron, and his wife, Edwina, accompanied Elizabeth on her first flight to Malta. Philip and Elizabeth spent Christmas of on the island, while their son stayed with his grandparents at Sandringham. After Chequers sailed out for duty in the Red Sea at the end of December, the princess flew back to England. She stopped first for several days in London, with a detour to Hurst Park to see her steeplechaser, Monaveen, win a race, before she was re-united with Charles in Norfolk after five weeks apart.
When Philip returned from naval maneuvers, Elizabeth rejoined him in Malta at the end of March for an idyllic six weeks. She felt marooned up there and much preferred to ride astride. Just leave it alone. On May 9 she flew back to London, six months pregnant and ready to resume some of her royal duties. Jock Colville had left the household the previous autumn to return to the diplomatic corps, and his replacement was year-old Martin Charteris, who was enraptured by the princess on their first meeting.
Elizabeth gave birth at Clarence House on August 15, , at Philip had returned to London two weeks earlier, which gave him time to get re-acquainted with his month-old son after almost a year away. But his first command, of the frigate H. Magpie —and a promotion to lieutenant commander—sent him back to Malta in early September. As she had with Charles, Elizabeth breast-fed her daughter for several months.
Yet again the family was split at Christmas, with mother and father celebrating on their own while the children were at Sandringham with their grandparents, who unabashedly doted on them. King George VI had been in declining health since , increasingly plagued by pain and numbness resulting from arteriosclerosis. In March he had undergone surgery to improve circulation in his legs. He continued to carry out his duties, but his appearance was gaunt, and by May he was seriously ill with a chronic cough that did not respond to treatment.
Elizabeth came home to stand in for her father at a variety of events, and Philip returned to London in July when it became clear that the royal couple would be needed full-time to represent the sovereign. There was no choice. It just happened. You have to make compromises. I accepted it. I tried to make the best of it. In September, George VI had a biopsy that revealed a malignancy, and surgeons removed his left lung in a three-hour operation. Elizabeth and Philip had been scheduled to leave for a state visit to Canada and the United States, which they postponed by two weeks until they were reassured that her father was in no imminent danger.
They departed at midnight on October 8, , and arrived 16 hours later in Montreal—the beginning of a day trek of more than 10, miles to the Pacific and back.