Royal romance: Looking back on the Queen and Prince Philip's love story
Published Friday, June 10, 2016 10:24PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 4, 2017 5:55AM EDT
It was all pomp and circumstance in England as the country prepared to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, but the week also marked a milestone for Elizabeth’s long-time beau.
Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband for 69 years and the longest-serving royal consort in British history, celebrated his 95th birthday on June 9, 2016.
Born in 1921, the Duke of Edinburgh began his birthday with the Queen at a special service at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Outside the church, crowds of well-wishers gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to the couple.
The Royals are often regarded as symbols of tradition, but the love story between Elizabeth and Philip was once considered a major British controversy and potential threat to the throne.
At the age 13, Princess Elizabeth, known as “Lilibet” at the time, fell in love with 18-year-old Philip, a Greek prince and third cousin working as a naval cadet. The pair began exchanging letters shortly after meeting.
"The Queen was smitten right from the word go. When she was Princess Elizabeth, the very first day she ever met Prince Philip. He wasn't obviously Prince Philip at that time, just a young naval officer in Dartmouth,” said former Royal photographer Ian Pelham-Turner.
Philip secretly proposed to Elizabeth in 1946, and the heiress to the throne accepted without first consulting her father, King George VI, who had insisted that she wait.
But the couple forged ahead with their love. They publically announced their engagement when Elizabeth turned 21 -- and in doing so triggered public outcry.
Philip, a foreign royal with ties to Denmark and Greece, was considered by many critics an unpolished and unorthodox choice for the British throne, despite the fact he served under Britain’s Royal Navy.
In hopes of defusing those tensions, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from the Greek Orthodox Church to the Church of England and adopted his mother’s British maiden name, Mountbatten.
Just a year after the secret proposal, the couple wed in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947. Elizabeth wore an ivory silk gown encrusted with pearls and crystal with a 15-foot train trailing behind her.
An estimated 200 million people across the globe listened to the ceremony broadcast on BBC Radio. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ceremony “a flash of colour on the hard road we have to travel.”
Prince Philip has since become famous for his quick wit and occasionally abrasive humour. He once described Beijing as “ghastly” after a visit in the 1980s and asked, “Are we going to need earplugs?” after learning that Madonna would sing the theme song for “Die Another Day.”
In a visit to Canada in 1976, Philip famously remarked, “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
Through their nearly seven decades of marriage, the Queen has lauded Prince Philip as a cornerstone of support, calling him “my strength.”
"I have done my best with Prince Philip's constant love and help to interpret it correctly through the years of our marriage and my reign as your Queen," the Queen once said.
With a report from CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme