Wedding of Elizabeth II and Philip Mountbatten

by Susan Flantzer

Elizabeth’s Family
Philip’s Family
The Engagement
The Engagement Ring
The Bridesmaids
The Wedding Attire
The Ceremony
The Wedding Luncheon
The Honeymoon
Learn More About Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh

Princess Elizabeth’s Family

HRH Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926 at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, the London home of her maternal grandfather. Her parents were the Duke and Duchess of York: HRH Prince Albert, the second son of King George V, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore. The new baby was named after her mother, her grandmother Queen Mary, and her great grandmother Queen Alexandra, who had died the previous year. In her family, the baby was known as Lilibet. Elizabeth had only one sibling, a sister, Margaret Rose (1930-2002) who married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The couple divorced in 1978. Elizabeth and her sister were educated at home primarily by their governess Marion Crawford. The York family was considered an ideal family by the British public and King George V adored his granddaughters, particularly Elizabeth.

At her birth, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne after her uncle Edward, Prince of Wales (known in the family as David) and her father. It was considered unlikely that she would become queen since her uncle was still young, and it was assumed that he would marry and have a family of his own. In January, 1936, when Elizabeth was nearly ten, her grandfather King George V died and his eldest son succeeded him as King Edward VIII. The new king was still unmarried and Elizabeth’s father was now heir to the throne and Elizabeth was number two in the line of succession. Later that year, there was a crisis when King Edward VIII proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American. The government’s opposition to the marriage and the king’s unwillingness to give up Mrs. Simpson led to King Edward VIII’s abdication in December, 1936. In an instant, Elizabeth’s life changed. Her father succeeded his brother as King George VI and Elizabeth was how heiress presumptive. This meant that she was presumed to be the heir, but if a brother were born, he would move ahead of Elizabeth in the succession. As befitting her new role, Elizabeth received private instruction from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College in constitutional history.

After her marriage in 1947, Elizabeth had a little more than four years to enjoy her new husband and start a family. Her first child Charles was born in November, 1948 and a daughter, Anne, was born in August, 1950. Ill with lung cancer, King George VI died on February 6, 1952 while Elizabeth and Philip were in Kenya. She had left her country as HRH The Princess Elizabeth and returned as HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Sources:
“Brewer’s British Royalty” by David Williamson
Wikipedia: Queen Elizabeth II
“Margaret Rose, Princess, Countess of Snowdon (1930–2002)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Wikipedia: Princess Margaret

 

The Family of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten
(Prince Philip of Greece)

HRH Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born June 10, 1921 at Villa Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu. His father was HRH Prince Andrew of Greece, the son of King George I of Greece (formerly Prince William of Denmark) and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, and his mother was Her Serene Highness Princess Alice of Battenberg, the daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. During World War I, when King George V ordered his family to relinquish their German styles and titles, Prince Louis became the Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven. Princess Victoria’s mother was Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Therefore, Philip and Elizabeth are third cousins as they are both great great grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They also share descent from King Christian IX of Denmark. Philip is King Christian’s great grandson and Elizabeth his great great granddaughter, so they are also second cousins once removed.

Philip had four much older sisters: Margarita (1905-1981) who married Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg; Theodora (1906-1969) who married Prince Berthold, Margrave of Baden; Cecilie (1911-1937) who married Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse; and Sophie (1914-2001) who married (1) Prince Christoph of Hesse, who died in World War II and (2) Prince George William of Hanover.

Philip’s childhood was far from ideal. A year after his birth, his uncle, King Constantine I, abdicated after Greece suffered a humiliating defeat in the Greco-Turkish War and his father Prince Andrew was arrested. Andrew had been a commander in the war and had refused to obey orders which he considered desperate and dangerous to his men. He was court-martialed and found guilty of “disobeying an order” and “acting on his own initiative.” Many others who had been tried and found guilty had been executed, so there was fear that Andrew would suffer the same fate. However, he was spared, but banished from Greece for life. His family fled Greece on a British cruiser with the young Philip in a crib made from a fruit box.

The family in exile was forced to depend upon relatives. They first settled in a Paris suburb in a house provided by Princess Marie Bonaparte, Andrew’s sister-in-law. During the next several years, the family drifted apart. Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, suffered a nervous breakdown when Philip was nine, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and spent two years in a Swiss sanatorium. After her release from the sanatorium, Alice isolated herself from her family until late 1936, maintaining contact only with her mother. In this period, her daughters married and settled in Germany, Philip was sent to England to live with his mother’s brothers and her mother, and Andrew moved to the French Riviera. Andrew and Alice did not see each other again until the 1937 funeral of their daughter Cecilie, their son-in-law and two of their grandchildren who were killed in an airplane accident. After this, Alice did remain in contact with her family, but she and Andrew remained separated. Philip, by this time, was a teenager. She told Philip he should return to live in Greece, apparently not aware that her family was steering him toward a life in England.

Sources:
“Brewer’s British Royalty” by David Williamson
“Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece” by Hugo Vickers
Wikipedia: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Wikipedia: Princess Alice of Battenberg
Wikipedia: Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

The Engagement

Engagement photo
taken on July 10, 1947

Always looking to make connections for his family, Philip’s maternal uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten (the future 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma), then a Captain in the Royal Navy, arranged for his nephew to be the escort of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret when the Royal Family toured Dartmouth Naval College in July, 1939, where Philip was a cadet. 13-year-old Elizabeth fell in love with Philip and the two began exchanging letters. Seven weeks after this meeting, World War II began and Philip served in the Royal Navy during the war. Philip and Elizabeth saw each other during the war whenever possible, but it was not until the war was over that the courtship started in earnest. Philip was often at Buckingham Palace, his sports car roaring into the palace’s forecourt and Elizabeth running out to meet him. By the summer of 1946, the press was beginning to speculate about an engagement. Apparently Philip proposed at Balmoral and Elizabeth said yes without consulting her parents. Although George VI approved of Philip, he resented that the “Royal Firm” of “Us Four” would be no more. The Royal Family was due to visit the Union of South Africa in early 1947 and the king did not want the engagement announced until their return. Apparently, some sort of argument ensued, but the king got his way. While Elizabeth was on her African trip, Philip, urged on by his uncle, renounced his Greek and Danish titles, become a naturalized British subject, and took the anglicized version of his mother’s surname, Mountbatten. On June 8, 1947 at midnight, the engagement was announced: “It is with the greatest pleasure that the King and Queen announce the betrothal of their dearly beloved daughter the Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN…to which the King has gladly given his consent.”

Source:
The Queen: The Life of Elizabeth II by Elizabeth Longford
Wikipedia: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Wikipedia: Queen Elizabeth II

The Engagement Ring

It took two men just over a week to make Princess Elizabeth’s platinum engagement ring and to set it with eleven diamonds. The central stone is about three carats and is surrounded with five small diamonds on either side.

The ring was made by George Taubl, who was the foreman of the manufacturing section of Philip Antrobus Jewelers of Regent Place. Mr. Harry Marchant set the stones. The two men said, “It was a very simple design, giving no trouble. And we did not know it was to be for the Princess until after we had made it.”

Princess Alice, Philip’s mother, visited the jeweler and showed him a ring which was made during the occupation of Greece. Though it seemed to be of great sentimental value to her, she said nothing of the visit being connected with the royal engagement. The stones from her ring were to be reset along with others in a band of modern design. A penciled sketch was made on top of a glass case. The result was basically her design. The jewelers have never disclosed the value of the ring.

Source:

“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards

The Bridesmaids

Elizabeth had a retinue of eight bridesmaids. Two of the bridesmaids were also princesses: Margaret Rose, Elizabeth’s 17-year-old sister, and their paternal first cousin, Alexandra of Kent, the youngest in the wedding party at the age of 10.

Eldest of the eight bridesmaids was Diana Bowes-Lyon, the 24-year old daughter of The Honorable John Herbert Bowes-Lyon. The Honorable Margaret Elphinstone, the 22-year old daughter of the 16th Lord Elphinstone and his wife Mary Bowes-Lyon, was one of Elizabeth’s closest friends. Both were Elizabeth’s maternal first cousins.

Like Margaret Elphinstone, bridesmaid Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas Scott had often accompanied Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to the theater, to dinner parties, and to dances in fashionable West End clubs and restaurants. Lady Caroline, who was 20 at the time, was the younger daughter of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch.

Other bridesmaids were Lady Pamela Mountbatten, 18, daughter of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and a first cousin of the bridegroom; Lady Mary Cambridge, 23, daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Cambridge and a grandniece of Queen Mary; and 23-year-old Lady Elizabeth Lambart, daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan.

Sources:
“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards
Royal Genealogies, http://ftp.cac.psu.edu/~saw/royal/royalgen.html
Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, http://www.dcs.hull.ac.uk/public/genealogy/royal/

The Wedding Attire

 

Princess Elizabeth was an all-white bride, with an all-white retinue of eight bridesmaids. Her dress, inspired by a Botticelli painting and created by Norman Hartnell, dressmaker to the bride’s mother, was made of 15 yards of rich ivory duchesse satin and was cut along classical lines, with a fitted bodice, long, tight sleeves, a full falling skirt, and a full court train 15 feet long. The broad heart-shaped neckline of the bodice was delicately embroidered with seed pearls and crystal in a floral design. From the pointed waist-line, formed by a girdle of pearl-embroidered star flowers, the swirling skirt was hand embroidered in an exquisite design representing garlands of white York roses. It was carried out in raised pearls entwined with ears of corn embroidered in crystals and oat-shaped pearls. Alternating between the garlands of roses and wheat, and forming a final border around the entire hem of the skirt, were bands of orange blossom and star flowers appliqué with transparent tulle bordered with seed pearls and crystal.

The train of transparent ivory silk tulle fell from the bride’s shoulders and was edged with graduated satin flowers, forming a border at the end of the fan-shaped train. A reverse type of embroidery, used on the wedding gown, was introduced on the train by appliqué satin star flowers, roses and wheat, further encrusted with pearl and crystal embroideries.

Elizabeth also wore a voluminous bridal veil of white tulle which was held by a tiara of pearls and diamonds, and ivory satin-draped sandals that had higher heels than she had ever worn before. The open-toe back and side effect was finished off with a silver buckle studded with small pearls.

There was a ban of secrecy on the details of the wedding dress, imposed by the Princess herself. That was lifted for reporters, but only a few hours before the royal wedding.

The gowns for the eight bridesmaids were made of ivory silk tulle in a design inspired by pictures hanging in Buckingham Palace.

Five-year-old Prince Michael, son of the late Duke of Kent, and six-year-old Prince William, the elder son of the Duke of Gloucester, wore Royal Stuart tartan kilts. It was their duty to carry their cousin Elizabeth’s train.

Other royals wore eye-catching attire to the wedding. Queen Ingrid of Denmark selected a full length gray silk dress with a short jacket of the same material trimmed with blue fox, and a small gray velvet hat with feathers. Former Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain wore a long, softly draped gown of chiffon velvet. A sable cape and a small gray hat trimmed with yellow osprey feathers finished off the outfit. Princess Juliana of the Netherlands chose a long, soft, silky moss green dress with a belt of golden sequins. Her hat was adorned with paradise feathers.

Sources:
“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley
“Majesty” by Robet Lacey
“Royal Silver Jubilee” by Patrick Montague-Smith
Two Centuries of Royal Weddings by Christopher Warwick
“Majesty” Magazine, November 1997 & February 1998

 

The Ceremony

The bride and her father enter Westminster Abbey as the bridesmaids adjust the wedding gown and veil

November 20, 1947, the wedding day, arrived. Philip had converted from Greek Orthodoxy to the Church of England in September. The morning of the wedding, it was announced that the King had created Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich with the style His Royal Highness. It was too late to change wedding program where his name appeared as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

The guests were all in their seats at Westminster Abbey anxiously awaiting the start of the wedding ceremony. The bride’s grandmother, Queen Mary, wearing an outfit that featured a hip-length cape of aquamarine velvet, led the Royal Procession into the Abbey. Next came the bride’s mother, Queen Elizabeth, in a dress of gold and apricot lamé. They were followed by the foreign sovereigns. A drum roll and trumpet voluntary announced the arrival of the bride and her father, King George VI. As Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle, she felt a tug on her gown. Six-year-old page Prince William of Gloucester was so nervous that he stepped on her train, but luckily had not torn it. The other page, five-year-old Prince Michael of Kent clutched the train so tightly that he committed the sin of walking right over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Abbey aisle.

At the altar, Philip waited with the best man, his cousin David Mountbatten, the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven. The King put his daughter’s hand in Philip’s and took his place next to the Queen. The Dean of Westminster began the rite of solemnization and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, performed the wedding ceremony which followed the normal wedding service from the Book of Common Prayer. In her vows, Elizabeth promised to “obey” Philip. Elizabeth’s gold wedding ring was made from the same Welsh nugget as her mother’s wedding ring.

As the couple moved to the high altar, the King bent down and helped Prince Michael with the train which had become too heavy for him. The Lord’s Prayer and the litany were followed by a favorite hymn of Elizabeth’s. Then the Archbishop of York gave his address to the couple. As The Lord Is My Shepherd was sung, Elizabeth, Philip, the King, the Queen and several others disappeared into the Chapel of Edward the Confessor to sign the registry. As Mendelssohn’s Wedding March sounded for the recessional, Elizabeth paused to curtsey first to her father, then her mother, and finally to her grandmother Queen Mary, while Philip offered a bow to each. Once again, Prince Michael delayed the bride’s progress and Philip glanced back at him several times to make sure poor little Michael kept in step.

Among the 2,500 invited wedding guests were the following foreign sovereigns: King Frederick and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, King Haakon of Norway, King Michael and Queen Helen of Rumania, Queen Frederika of Greece, King Peter and Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, Queen Victoria Eugenie (Ena) of Spain and the Dowager Queen Marie of Yugoslavia. Other foreign royals were: Princess Anne and Princess René of Bourbon-Parma, Prince Charles of Belgium, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, The Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden, Prince and Princess George of Greece, The Duchess of Aosta, Princess Axel of Denmark, Prince Fleming of Denmark, Prince George of Denmark, Prince John and Princess Elizabeth of Luxembourg and Prince Nicholas of Greece.

Notably absent from the wedding celebrations were Philip’s three surviving sisters: Princess Margarita married to Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Lagenburg; Princess Theodora married to Berthold, Margrave of Baden; and Princess Sophie, the widow of Prince Christoph of Hesse, and married to Prince George William of Hanover. The presence of German royalty so soon after World War II would have been embarrassing, especially since Prince Christoph, who died in World War II, had been a high ranking Nazi. The sisters were simply not invited.

Also not invited were the uncle of the bride, the Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII), and his wife, the Duchess of Windsor. The Duke was instructed to avoid answering questions from the press regarding the wedding which infuriated the Duchess.

Sources:
“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards
“Majesty” by Robert Lacey
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley
“Royal Silver Jubilee” by Patrick Montague-Smith

The Wedding Luncheon

A wedding luncheon for 150 was held in the State Dining Room at Buckingham Palace. The luncheon menu included Filet de Sole Mountbatten, Perdreau en Casserole and Bombe Glace Princess Elizabeth served on gold plate. The speeches were short and the King rose with his champagne glass and said simply, “The bride!” Philip cut the cake with the sword of his grandfather, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Sources:
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley
“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards

The Honeymoon

Photo taken three days after the wedding

After the luncheon, Elizabeth changed into a powder blue outfit and Philip into another uniform. It had started to rain, but Elizabeth insisted upon driving to Waterloo Station in an open carriage so the people could see the newly married couple. Hot water bottles were packed at her feet and Susan, her favorite Corgi who was accompanying her mistress, sat beneath her lap robe. As the couple left Buckingham Palace, members of the Royal Family threw paper rose petals at them.

The first part of the honeymoon was spent at Broadlands, the home of Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Philip’s aunt and uncle. The newlyweds had little privacy there as the public and photographers continuously sought opportunities to see them. The last part of the honeymoon was spent at the secluded Birkhall near Balmoral in Scotland.

Sources:
“Elizabeth and Philip” by Charles Higham and Roy Moseley
“Royal Sisters” by Anne Edwards

Learn more about Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh