LONDON >> Queen Elizabeth II, already Britain’s longest-serving monarch, passed a new milestone today, together with Prince Philip, as they became the longest-married couple of the royal family.
The family released a series of new portraits taken earlier this month of Elizabeth, 91, and Philip, 96. The two appeared against a platinum-textured backdrop, a hint at the 70th anniversary, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. One of the images showed them alongside portraits of another long-lasting couple, King George III and Queen Charlotte, who were married for 57 years.
Black-and-white pictures of the wedding on Nov. 20, 1947, which appeared as part of a collection of stamps released today by the Royal Mail, showed Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, described by a New York Times correspondent in 1947 as “a healthy, happy girl and a grinning young naval officer.”
The images were a reminder of the couple’s constant presence in the public eye through most of the past century, while the country and the world around them changed.
No public event was scheduled to mark the anniversary, unlike the spectacular pageantry of their vows in front of an estimated 2,000 guests that brought a spark to a war-torn London. The wedding was broadcast by BBC radio to a country, continent and world still reeling from the atrocities of World War II. Food and clothes were still being rationed in Britain, and the United States was discussing sending billions of dollars in aid to western parts of a divided Europe for postwar reconstruction.
The princess’s gown, designed by Norman Hartnell, of ivory silk, crystals and 10,000 seed pearls was especially extravagant given the restrictions in place. She managed to collect clothing ration coupons to pay for it.
Today, the couple presides over an extended family that has become an obsession of tabloid newspapers around the world. The family is also a brand, at times hailed for its contribution to the economy, mainly for generating tourist income, but also recently criticized for tax avoidance.
The queen has described Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as her “strength and stay through all these years.” On Monday, she appointed him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, an award made by the queen for services to the sovereign. He retired from most official duties this past summer.