At the heart of the British royal family is a love story that has all the elements of a true fairytale romance -- an action man Prince given to daring deeds, a delicate but feisty beauty whose hand he longs to win, and obstacles strewn along the path to their 'happily ever after'. Our protagonists, Queen Elizabeth II, then the pretty young heiress to the throne, and dashing war hero Prince Philip of Greece, were the William and Kate or Harry and Meghan of their day, with every stage of their courtship eagerly followed by an adoring public.
On Nov 20 it will be 70 years since the splendid wedding that united Elizabeth with her Prince, whom she described as "an angel" and "the best and nicest man in the world". Their unbreakable bond has withstood life's tempests, not least the competing demands of matrimony and monarchy. Nothing has ever come between them as they balanced raising four children with her role as sovereign.
Millions worldwide recognise the Prince from afar as the steadfast consort who has travelled the globe with the Queen. But few can know the personal charm and charisma of the man who enchanted the young Elizabeth all those years ago – and still does. She first set eyes on him when she was just a teenager, while touring the British naval academy where he was training. A 6ft blue-eyed Adonis prone to irreverent jokes, he exuded confidence and charm. From that time on, "she never thought of anyone else," says the Prince's cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks. When he returned from the Second World War eight years later, the pair's courtship began in earnest. But it took some time for Philip to be accepted by the establishment, because his family was exiled from Greece and without land or fortune. Elizabeth's devotion never wavered.
Time has certainly vindicated her youthful choice. For seven decades, the Prince has been more than a consort, more than a devoted father to their family. He has been a lasting soulmate. Now, as the couple celebrate their milestone anniversary, we celebrate their union in the words of those who know them best.
"He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years"
The Queen on her Golden Wedding Anniversary.
"Cherish Lilibet? I wonder if that word is enough to express what is in me"
Prince Philip reflecting on his marriage vows in a letter to his mother-in-law.
"I am sure that I do not deserve all the good things that have happened to me… to have fallen in love, completely and unreservedly"
Prince Philip ahead of his wedding.
"Philip is an angel. We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years"
The newlywed Queen writing to her parents.
"Tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage... The Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance"
Prince Philip in 1997.
"They are the most incredibly supportive couple to each other. I think he is her rock really and she is his"
"He's the only man in the world who treats the Queen simply as another human being. I think she values that. And it is not unknown for the Queen to tell the Duke to shut up"
Her former private secretary Lord Charteris.
"I've got letters from her saying: ‘It’s so exciting. Mummy says that Philip can come and stay.' She was truly in love from the very beginning"
The Queen's cousin Margaret Rhodes.
"I'm blissfully happy, and I'm enjoying being married to the best and nicest man in the world"
The Queen in a letter to Margaret Rhodes, 1947.
"If I am asked what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can answer with equal simplicity and conviction, I am for it"
The Queen, 1972.
"Philip's great sense of fun is what gives the Queen her strength… they will be rolling around on the floor laughing… she is still madly in love with him"
Prince Philip's cousin Lady Pamela Hicks.
"I would love to know their secret. They are the most lovely couple, and I hope Catherine and I have that sort of future ahead of us"