A Princess Bride

The engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lt Philip Mountbatten was formally announced on 9 July 1947, although they couple had actually become engaged the previous year.

Although the stories often relate their first meeting as being at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939 when the dashing naval officer conducted the thirteen year old princess on a tour of the facility, that was actually their third meeting. As a former Prince of Greece and Denmark, Philip was a distant cousin of Princess Elizabeth’s as they were both descendants of Queen Victoria.

The visit to the naval college was when Elizabeth fell in love with her future husband and they kept up a correspondence thereafter. A few years later, Philip sought permission to marry Elizabeth and George VI agreed on condition the couple wait to announce it after Elizabeth was 21 years old.

The engagement ring was made up of a centre stone bordered by 10 smaller pavé diamonds. The diamonds were repurposed from a tiara that had belonged to Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, and other stones from the same piece would be used to create a bracelet as a wedding gift for the princess which would come to be known as the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.

When news of the engagement broke, it was met with negativity from some quarters as it was felt an impoverished prince from an exiled royal family was not a suitable match for a future queen. Anticipating the difficulties, Philip had already renounced his Greek royal titles, adopted the Mountbatten surname and had become a naturalised British citizen. However, there were other issues that could not be resolved, namely the fact his sisters were married to German noblemen with possible Nazi links which meant they couldn’t be invited to the wedding. On the eve of the wedding, Philip was bestowed with the style of His Royal Highness and the following day would be created Duke of Edinburgh.

The Wedding Day

The wedding took place at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947 and was recorded so it could be seen by a global audience. Despite the reservations about Philip’s suitability, the general public were excited about the marriage and it helped lift the spirits of a nation still grappling with the trauma of the Second World War. The country was also still in rationing which would pose a problem for Elizabeth in regard to her wedding dress. However, the princess was deeply touched when young women around the country sent her clothing coupons for material, however they had to be retuned as it was illegal for them to be used by anyone else.

Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved

The wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was made from ivory duchesse silk satin, and featured star flowers, roses, jasmine blossoms and ears of wheat, embellished with 10,000 crystals and seed pearls which were imported from the United States. The dress had a heart-shaped neckline, long tight sleeves and a full skirt. The 13ft train also featured embroidered motifs of wheat sheafs and flowers embellished with crystals and seed pearls. The whole design was inspired by Botticelli’s painting Primavera and took Hartnell’s embroiderers weeks to finish in utmost secrecy.

The bridal bouquet was of white orchids with a sprig of myrtle taken from the bush grown from the original sprig in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet. The bouquet was returned to the abbey the day after the service to be laid on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, following a tradition started by Elizabeth’s mother at her wedding in 1923. A sprig from Princess Elizabeth’s bouquet was later planted and has appeared in the bouquets of more recent royal brides, including Catherine Middleton.

Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved

The veil was held in place by Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara which had been loaned by her mother, however disaster struck when the tiara snapped just before the princess was ready to leave for the abbey and had to be hastily repaired by the court jeweller. The fringe tiara was repurposed with diamonds from a tiara given to Queen Mary as a wedding gift from Queen Victoria. The tiara was later given to her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, when she became queen consort in 1936 and she wore it often which probably contributed to it snapping. The tiara has been worn by two successive brides, Anne, the Princess Royal, in 1973 and Princess Beatrice of York in 2020.

Elizabeth also wore the Duchess of Teck Earrings which had been given to her by grandmother earlier that year. The earrings were paired with the Queen Anne Pearl Necklace and the Queen Caroline Pearl Necklace which had been given to the princess by her parents. The Queen Anne Pearl Necklace, a single strand of 46 pearls, belonged to Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, while The Queen Caroline Necklace, a single strand of 50 pearls, belonged to Caroline of Ansbach, the wife of George II. As the story goes, the necklaces were put on display along with the other wedding gifts and forgotten about until they had to be hastily retrieved on the wedding day.

A Long Marriage

By the time of Prince Philip’s death in 2021, the couple had been married for almost 74 years and were the only royal couple in the history of the British monarchy to have celebrated a Platinum Wedding Anniversary. After the births of four children and eight grandchildren, the couple welcomed their first great-grandchild in December 2010.

Similar Posts