Queen and Duke celebrate 71st wedding anniversary

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are celebrating a rare achievement – their 71st wedding anniversary.

The monarch was a 21-year-old princess when she married the dashing Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey on November 20 1947.

Their enduring relationship has lasted the longest of any British sovereign, and Philip has been at the Queen’s side throughout the decades, supporting her as she devotes herself to her role as head of state.

While the duke has retired from public duties, the Queen has an official engagement on the morning of their anniversary on Tuesday – when she visits the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in London to mark its own 150th anniversary.

Braemar Royal Highland Gathering
Braemar Royal Highland Gathering

But the couple are likely to be reunited in private later in the day.

Last year saw the Queen and Philip toast their milestone platinum wedding anniversary with a black-tie party for 100 family and friends in the state apartments at Windsor Castle.

Royal platinum wedding anniversary
Royal platinum wedding anniversary

This year’s anniversary is expected to be low key.

There is no traditional gift, jewel or colour associated with 71st wedding anniversaries in the UK, although in France it is the ochre anniversary.

With two royal weddings, two royal babies and one on the way, 2018 has already been a year of celebration for the Windsors.

The Queen and the duke’s grandson the Duke of Sussex wed American former actress Meghan Markle in May, while their granddaughter Princess Eugenie married tequila brand ambassador Jack Brooksbank in October.

Royal wedding
Royal wedding

Prince Louis – the monarch and Philip’s sixth great-grandchild – was born in April, followed by a seventh great-grandchild, Lena Tindall, in June.

Harry and Meghan’s first child – an eighth great-grandchild for the Queen and Philip – is due in the spring.

The Queen and the duke have also just celebrated the 70th birthday of their eldest child, the Prince of Wales.

Philip has been enjoying his retirement, spending plenty of time at Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate, reading and painting, or at Windsor carriage driving, away from the pressures of royal engagements.

Royalty – Engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lieut. Philip Mountbatten – London
Royalty – Engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Lieut. Philip Mountbatten – London

It was in 1939 that Princess Elizabeth was said to have first fallen for Philip as a teenager.

The distant cousins had been at the same gatherings on a number of occasions, but had their first publicised and pivotal meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, in July of that year when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited with their two daughters.

Blond-haired, athletic 18-year-old Philip caught Lilibet’s eye as he entertained her by jumping over tennis nets.

The king’s official biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, recalled: “This was the man with whom Princess Elizabeth had been in love from their first meeting.”

Eight years later, the princess walked down the aisle, dressed in an ivory silk Norman Hartnell gown, decorated with 10,000 seed pearls, glittering crystals and an intricate 13ft (4m) star-patterned train, to marry 26-year-old Philip, who was fresh from serving in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

Royalty – Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh Wedding – Westminster Abbey
Royalty – Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh Wedding – Westminster Abbey

Within five years, the princess had acceded to the throne.

Their 71-year-union is seen as a key source of stability within the monarchy.

Together they have celebrated the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of the Queen’s reign, and faced ups and downs over the years including the breakdown of three of their four children’s marriages, and the backlash which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

On their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, the Queen paid a touching tribute to her husband, saying: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

Philip used the occasion to praise the Queen for her abundance of tolerance.

“I think the main lesson that we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage,” he said.

The duke added: “It may not be quite so important when things are going well, but it is absolutely vital when the going gets difficult.

“You can take it from me that the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”