A Peak Into Princess Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wedding
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh are all set to celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary. Their’s was a fairytale story that most of us don’t know about
Think about it like this- The Queen and her husband have been married for more years than you have even lived.
Most people who had visited their wedding are no more and almost none of us don’t remember the two tying the knot. For us, the Queen has always had her grey hair and her husband two steps behind her.
When the Princess Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh wed in Westminster Abbey on 20th November, 1947 they were the spectacle of the season. The entire nation and commonwealth celebrated, sending their wishes and gifts. Britons had their ears trained to the radio (because there was no tele) and humongous crowds had gathered at the Mall all the way till the Abbey.
People recalled that the day had started off rather gloomily with grey clouds but the bride made the day as bright as spring itself. As she headed from Buckingham Palace with her father George VI, the crowds were eager to catch a glimpse of their Princess Elizabeth in her wedding gown.
That day was like a fairytale and so were the events leading up to that day. The story had started almost a decade ago when the Princess was just 13. This story has it all- a scheming Uncle, a Naval Officer, too many obstacles and initial public displeasure.
Did you think being the most eligible bride in the UK would have been easy for the Princess?
Let me tell you this charming story that lead up to a robust 70 year marriage and get you all starry-eyed.
It wouldn’t have been possible without a Scheming Uncle
Louis ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten is famously known as the last Viceroy of India. That man was hugely manipulative and hungry for power. So during a tea party with the King and his small family, when Mountbatten saw the exchange between the heir to the throne and his own nephew, he was hell bent in securing this match.
There were some hurdles that a manipulative mind like that of Louis Mountbatten thought too trivial to shy him from his quest for power. Never mind that the Princess was just 13!
He moved heaven and earth to get his name on the thrown and succeeded.
His first plan was to directly ask the King for his daughter’s hand for his nephew. What escaped Mountbatten’s mind was that the Princess and her father shared a strong bond. Her father was in no means ready to let go of his beloved daughter.
The other major hurdle was his nephew’s identity. Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg as his name was, was a member of the Danish and Greece royal family. When Philip was just 3 months old, his family had been dethroned and forced to live in exile. Furthermore, his three elder sisters were married to Germans something that didn’t sit well with Britain during the WW2.
This was where Louis Mountbatten had to play his cards diplomatically. After a back and forth with influential politicians, Mountbatten got Philip naturalised into a British citizen. Philip had to give up his previous titles as Prince of Greece and Denmark. Mountbatten gave Philip his own surname ‘Mountbatten’ something that was British enough to become the surname of its Royal family.
Did you know Winston Churchill wasn’t very pleased with Mountbatten nor that the Princess had married a Prince with German connections.
When the King says NO!
These are a number of hurdles that the Royal couple had to face up to their wedding and also after it.
The biggest hurdle came in the form of the King and Queen Mother. Princess Elizabeth’s parents were against the match. They thought Philip was their daughter’s mere ‘crush.’
While he was away on his Naval duties, the Queen Mother tried to set Princess Elizabeth up with well-bred British gentleman. But the diary of the Princess’s governess says that the Princess was smitten. She even kept a picture of Philip on her mantlepiece. And when asked the question- what will people think? The Princess was smart enough to draw a beard on Philip’s picture and dress him up incognito.
Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten proposed when the Princess was 18 and she readily agreed. Even though he was vexed by his uncle’s constant meddling, Philip wanted to marry the Princess.
Their engagement was kept a secret from the public yet hints of an engagement slipped into the media. It was shortly denied by the Palace.
The King and Queen still believed that they could change their daughter’s mind. They took her on a 4 month long tour. Needless to say, she had set her mind on him and she never hesitated.
When the Royal family returned to London, the news of a possible announcement started swirling in the newspapers yet again. The Palace couldn’t hold it secret anymore.
How would people take this news? According to newspaper polls, 40% people were agains the match. They hated the idea of a ‘foreign Prince’ marrying the heir to the throne. Most people wrote to the newspapers suggesting that the Princess should choose an English gentlemen from the gentry.
Getting hold of this information, the ever nosy uncle had to do something. Louis Mountbatten set about calling his contacts. He contacted his friend who was a MP and an influential journalist.
Mountbatten is rumoured to have himself hand written an entire sketch of his nephew’s life. The documents mentioned how Prince Philip played cricket, had lived in the UK most of his life and was as British as can be. Mountbatten argued that his nephew had spent a mere 3 months in Greece and didn’t even speak the language.
The ever thirsty media gobbled up this new information. Suddenly, Philip Mountbatten became an acceptable bridegroom for the Princess.
The Wedding Problems
It was announced that the Princess Elizabeth was engaged to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten on 9th July, 1947.
Most Britons were pleased with the news but they had questions? Would the Palace spend lavishly on a wedding?
Most of the British nation was in severe post-war rationing. The WW2 had taken a heavy toll. People were unemployed, starving and without a roof over their heads.
In such dire times, would the Royal family shell out a bomb for their daughter’s wedding? Especially money that the nation would benefit from?
Throughout the war, the Royal Family had adhered to the strict rationing themselves just like their subjects. They had received their share of goodwill for it. A heavy expenditure from the royal treasury would burst this bubble of trust.
The wedding was announced. It was to be held on 20th November, 1947.
The couple received around 2500 wedding presents. These presents were kept on display for the public. The advertisement emphasised that the wedding presents were the people’s own. The presents were open for the British public to view at the St. James Palace, London.
The main highlight was of course the wedding gown. All information regarding the wedding gown was kept hush-hush. Sir Norman Hartnell designed the dress to represent spring. It had a 15ft long train.
British silk was used to make this dress. The Queen paid in 300 cloth ration coupons. Some Britons sent there own ration coupons to the Princess but were duly returned since that would have been illegal.
The wedding dress was at display last year for Her Majesty’s 90th birthday celebrations at the Buckingham Palace (and guess who saw it, me!). It is exquisite and has hardly weathered with time.
Did you know, as a wedding present, the Australian Girl Scout sent in materials for to make the cake. The final wedding cake was 9 ft long!
The Wedding Day
20th November, 1947 dawned in the blink of an eye.
At Kensington Palace, the bridegroom was a little jittery, unlike himself. He famously remarked, “Am I being very brave or very foolish?”
The Wedding party all waited with batted breath. Would there be a crowd to see the Princess or were the people still against this match and the expenditure for a wedding?
They needn’t have worried of course. Millions of people came to see the Princess and others keenly listened on. The Princess with her father left from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. The newly titled Duke of Edinburg (Prince Philip) was waiting with 2000 other guests for the bride to arrive.
The moment Princess Elizabeth stepped out of her carriage, the crowd cheered loudly.
This day had been a breath of fresh air that the country needed. After a sombre war that took everything and the loss of its colonies, a national level celebration was welcome.
That day, Princess Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh were married but little did they know that in 2017, the two would still be alive to celebrate 70 years since that amazing day. A day they vowed to be each other’s ‘strength and stay’ as the Queen Elizabeth put it during their Golden Jubilee celebrations.
What fact about the Queen and Duke of Edinburg’s wedding didn’t you know about? Comment about it below.
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