When Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday Prince Philip would be stepping down from public life, I found myself surprised at my own piqued interested into the life and times of the royal family.
Here was a man – a 95-year-old man – retiring from a job he had held for more years than many live. In my short existence, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth have always been well established in both age and tenure, the faces of the British Royal family for a long while before I found myself wandering into this world.
Which makes it all the more interesting to consider the lives of the royal couple far beyond the confines of, well, royalty. Before we came to know them in the boundaries of money, polish and power, who were the royal couple? What were their hobbies? Their fears? Their loves? What did they do, before public life swallowed much of their time and energy?
And above all else, how did the two come to be?
For those who didn’t watch The Crown on Netflix last year, the courtship of the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t a short one.
In fact, the couple first met at a wedding in 1934 when the then Princess was just eight years old and Philip – who was her distant third cousin born into the Greek and Danish royal families – was about 14 years old.
A 1957 cover story in TIME says that five years later, in 1939, when Prince Philip was reportedly asked to escort Elizabeth and her sister Margaret during a tour of Dartmouth, the future Queen was “besotted” with him and the two began exchange letters. Queen Elizabeth was just 13 at the time.
Some 7 years later, Elizabeth and Philip were engaged in secret after a courtship brimming with uphill battles and remarkable hesitation on behalf of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.