70 years ago today, a nation was excitedly counting down the days until the marriage of the young Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the reigning George VI, to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. The couple’s affections had first begun to blossom during the Greek prince’s wartime visits to Windsor Castle when he was on leave from the Navy.
This was 1947, and Britain was still feeling the after-effects of the Second World War. For a country bereaved and in the grip of austerity, a royal wedding offered escape, glamour, romance, and the sense of new beginning.
It didn’t disappoint. After a four-month engagement, the 21-year-old princess wed her prince at Westminster Abbey – the scene of her grandson’s wedding some 64 years later. She was accompanied by eight bridesmaids and two page boys, and wore a beautiful white satin gown designed by British couturier Norman Hartnell, which was embroidered with seed pearls and crystals, and garlanded with York roses, star flowers and orange blossom.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds travelled in the Glass Coach to Buckingham Palace, where they enjoyed a wedding breakfast with 150 guests, dining on partridge and sole. The wedding cake, which towered over the bridegroom at nine feet high, was later to be sliced up and distributed all around the country.
Five years later, and by now a mother of two, Princess Elizabeth became Queen. Her life, and that of her husband, would be changed forever when she swore an oath to serve her country and its people.
Fast-forward to 2017, and that same couple are about to celebrate their Platinum Anniversary, a rare milestone in any lifetime, let alone two that have been lived so extensively in the public eye. The UK today is very different from in the late 1940s. Significant events receive international attention and rolling news coverage. At just hours old, infant additions to the Royal Family find themselves hashtagged and trending on Twitter. And the more relaxed approach of the younger generations of royals has, increasingly, been influenced and endorsed by our monarch: witness her warm smile during investitures and royal events, her enthusiastic cheers at her beloved Royal Ascot, and her evident affection for her ever-growing family (not to mention the corgis!)
One can understand why platinum is the material of choice to recognise this anniversary: enduring and valuable, it signifies the strength of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s union amid times of change and upheaval. The Duke of Edinburgh also chose to use platinum when he designed The Queen’s engagement ring, which she still wears.
And the secret of this royal couple’s longevity? Their work ethic may give us a clue. Between them they have displayed considerable stamina, energy and self-sacrifice. By the time of his retirement earlier this year, the Duke of Edinburgh had completed 22,191 solo engagements as consort (an average of 317 per year), while the Queen, now in her nineties, made 322 public appearances in 2016 alone. This kind of commitment is clearly second nature when it comes to their marriage, too.
Moreover, their lasting and genuine affection for one another is glimpsed from time-to-time in photographs that catch them off-guard, laughing together at a shared observation, or simply being close to one another, each taking strength from the other’s presence.
The Royal Mint is marking the occasion of the Platinum Wedding Anniversary with a very special collection of commemorative coins. Artist John Bergdahl was commissioned to create two reverse designs, with an obverse portrait by sculptor Etienne Millner (the first combined portrait on an official UK coin for ten years). View the collection at www.royalmint.com