20 November 2017

70th Anniversary Celebration

Photo: Matt Holyoak/CameraPress
All around the world today, people are celebrating the 70th wedding anniversary of the history's most famous nonagenarians: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her husband The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. Every royal blog, newspaper and magazine is covering every aspect of their relationship, their wedding, their life together, their impact on the world, etc. etc. Here on Princess Palace, I have spent the last week tracing their marriage decade by decade. (You can start with The First Decade.)

With so much coverage, I've been hard-pressed to come up with a topic that isn't already being dissected EVERYWHERE else. I think perhaps I have found a unique angle for my readers:

Prince Philip is MORE ROYAL than Queen Elizabeth.

Back during World War II, a teenaged Princess Elizabeth set her sights on marrying the gorgeous Greek Prince Philip. (Check out my two-part series, The Moonstruck Princess and Her Greek God.) Her parents were less than thrilled and they tried to dissuade her and distract her. They even took her on a four-month royal tour on the other side of the planet in hopes that she would change her mind. Philip was brash, his family was full of "upstarts" and he had no real home or money. In short, he just wasn't good enough for her. The Greek throne, to which he was third in line, was in a constant state of uncertainty. Within the previous four decades, its kings (his uncles and cousins) had been assassinated, deposed and killed by a monkey. (No kidding.) His own father came very near being executed when he was an infant.

Ironically, however, the "lowly" Prince Philip had more royal relatives than his bride, who was heiress to what was likely the world's most illustrious throne. But, how could this be?

They were both great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria. They were also both descended from Denmark's King Christian IX. He was a great-grandson while she was a great-great granddaughter. Wouldn't that make them equally royal? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the continental royal families grew increasingly stringent about "equal" marriages. (See my post, Unequal Marriage Equals Happy Marriage?) This meant that a prince could only marry a princess and vice versa. Otherwise, their marriages were not considered in dynastic. In Britain, however, Queen Victoria made her own rules. Fancying herself the highest and most important of all monarchs, she determined that she herself could determine who was worthy enough to marry her children and grandchildren. Once she had allowed her fourth daughter Louise to marry a British peer, the British nobility became "good enough" for her descendants. Soon, they were even better options than lowly continental princelings, especially after World War I turned so many of them into enemies.

This meant that it was perfectly acceptable, even highly celebrated when three of King George V's children married into the British peerage. When a Scottish earl's daughter became his son George VI's Queen Consort, there was absolutely no question about her suitability for the role. In most of the continental royal houses, he would have been excluded from the line of succession for marrying someone like Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. So, when their daughter Princess Elizabeth wished to marry, they really thought the Earl of Whatsit or the Duke of Suchandsuch would make a very fine match.

via Wikimedia Commons
Instead, she chose Prince Philip, whose paternal grandparents were King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, a granddaughter of Czar Nicholas I. His maternal great-aunt was Empress Alexandra of Russia--making the martyred Romanov children his cousins. His maternal aunt Louise was Queen of Sweden. His paternal uncle Constantine and three first cousins were kings of Greece. His first cousin Helen was Queen Mother of Romania. Among his second cousins are Queen Sofia of Greece, King Michael of Romania, Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway, Nicholas II of Russia, Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, Constantine II of Greece, Queen Maud of Norway, Alexander I of Bulgaria, and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain. If you count the Swedish step-grandchildren of his Aunt Louise, you can add in Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, Margrethe II of Denmark and her sister, Queen Anne Marie of Greece.

The royal relatives of Queen Elizabeth II comprise a much smaller list: her parents, uncle King Edward VIII, her paternal grandparents King George V and Queen Mary, great aunt Queen Maud of Norway, and one second cousin, King Olav V of Norway.

Nevertheless, Philip and Elizabeth managed to make their equal (unequal?) marriage work and it has lasted for seven decades. Congratulations to them both for lives well lived and years of service to each other, to their family, to their nation, and to the world. I think we are all blessed to have them in our world.

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