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"He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years."
This statement was made by Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her 50th wedding anniversary to Prince Philip.
Today, after more than 65 years of public engagements, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, at age 96, is retiring from royal engagements.
Later today at Buckingham Palace, the Duke will attend attend a parade of Royal Marines. He will also meet servicemen who took part in a 1,664 mile race to raise money for the Royal Marine's Charity.
The first meeting between the handsome young prince and the heiress presumptive to the throne is usually said to be the summer of 1939 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by their two young daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, paid a visit to Dartmouth College.
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The naval cadets were scheduled to join the royal family at services at the college, but several were sick, due to mumps and chicken pox. Thus, another naval cadet. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, was allegedly roped in to entertain the young princesses.
In his biography of Philip, Basil Boothroyd notes that there are different views of this meeting. One said "they had a glorious time." Another noted that Princess Elizabeth kept asking: "When are we going home?" Philip did suggest a game of croquet or a game of tennis, and allegedly "showed off by jumping over the net."
Elizabeth responded: "How good he is! How high can he jump!" Or "can we go home."
But this was not the first meeting between the third cousins. Elizabeth and Philip most certainly met in 1934 at the wedding of Elizabeth's uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, to Philip's first cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and and Denmark. They also shared the same circle of childhood friends: Patricia and Pamela Mountbatten, David, the Earl of Medina, and Alex, Georgina and Myra Wernher.
Alex was very much the older brother to Philip, and his sister, Gina, was one of the Queen's lifelong friends.
During the war, Prince Philip visited Windsor Castle on numerous occasions.
The American-born Sir Henry "Chips Channon was in Athens in January 1941 at the same time as the young Prince Philip, who was on leave from the HMS Valiant. Chips, who was married to Lady Honor Guinness, had been meeting with Philip's aunt, Princess Nicholas of Greece (mother of Marina). It seems they have been discussing Philip's future marriage. In his diary, which was published after his death in 1967, Chips confided: "He is to be our Prince Consort and that is why he is serving in our Navy."
In 1944, he wrote: "I do believe that a marriage may well be arranged one day between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip." During a visit to Coppins, the home of the widowed Duchess of Kent, Chips noticed that Philip was a frequent visitor as his name appeared numerous times in the guest book.
Chips believed that Philip and Elizabeth often met at Coppins. Philip was "infuriated" that Chips was spreading such rumors. He insists that a marriage with Elizabeth did not cross his mind until 1946.