The Duke of Edinburgh met his future wife in 1939 when he was 18 and she was 13. In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Upon the request of the Queen and Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, they asked him to escort Elizabeth and Margaret, who were Philip’s third cousins through Queen Victoria, and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark, while their parents visited the facility.
Elizabeth said she fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. In 1946 Philip asked the king for permission to marry Elizabeth. This request was granted on the condition that it would not be announced until after the Elizabeth’s 21st birthday in April of the next year. She was 21 when their engagement was officially announced on July 9, 1947.
The engagement was not without controversy; Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject who had served in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War), and had sisters who had married German Royalty with Nazi links. Marion Crawford wrote, “Some of the King’s advisors did not think him good enough for her. He was a prince without a home or kingdom.
Some of the papers played long and loud tunes on the string of Philip’s foreign origin.” Later biographies reported Elizabeth’s mother had reservations about the union initially, and teased Philip as “The Hun.” In later life, however, the Queen Mother told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was “an English gentleman.”
Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, officially converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the Anglicized version of Battenberg, the surname of his mother’s British family.
The day before the wedding his wedding, King George VI bestowed the style His Royal Highness on Philip, and on the day of the wedding, November 20, 1947, King George VI granted Philip the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. However, he wasn’t made a Prince of the United Kingdom in his own right until 1958 when Her Majesty granted him that distinction.
Elizabeth and Philip were married on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey. They received 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world. Because Britain had not yet completely recovered from the devastation of the war, Elizabeth required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, which was designed by Norman Hartnel. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for Philip’s German relations, including his three surviving sisters, to be invited to the wedding. The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, was not invited either.
Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander. Philip had four children with Elizabeth: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Through a British Order in Council issued in 1960, descendants of the couple not bearing royal styles and titles can use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has also been used by some members of the royal family who do hold titles, such as Anne, Andrew and Edward.