By People Staff
December 08, 1997 12:00 PM

STAYING MARRIED FOR 50 YEARS MERITS MAJOR RECOGNITION, and Queen Elizabeth, 71, and Prince Philip, 76—who marked their golden wedding anniversary on Nov. 20—didn’t let the milestone pass without appropriate fanfare. In a two-day, whirlwind celebration beginning Nov. 19, Britain’s royal couple were feted at a gala concert, honored at Westminster Abbey, toasted by Prime Minister Tony Blair and treated to a black-tie ball at the newly restored Windsor Castle.

And the festive mood was enhanced by the appearance of two surprise guests: Prince Harry, 13, and Prince William, 15, the latter making his first public appearance since Diana’s funeral on Sept. 6. Arriving at Westminster Abbey on the morning of Nov. 20, the future king looked serious, his head slightly bowed, as he entered the church in which his mother had been eulogized 11 weeks earlier.

After the service—attended by some 200 of the world’s royals, including Princes Felipe of Spain and Ernst of Hanover (sans girlfriend Princess Caroline)—Prince Charles and his sons headed for a luncheon at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. There, the boys laughed and chatted with cousins Zara and Peter Phillips, and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice (whose mother, Fergie, had been invited to the service but not to the lunch, and who complained that “they obviously don’t want me around” on CNN’s Larry King Live afterward). The princes also shook hands with some of the 600 children there to greet them—though William, at one point momentarily shy, needed a nudge from his Uncle Andrew and a plea from a schoolgirl. “I called his name, and he smiled and came over,” says Rachel Courtney, 14. “I said, ‘It is a pleasure to meet you,’ and he said, ‘Thank you for the flowers.’ He lived up to my expectations.”

But nothing—not even a dispute between the Palace and Kevin Costner over whether Diana had considered starring in a sequel to The Bodyguard (Costner to the Palace: “They should be very careful when they challenge me on this one”)—could upstage the happy couple. At a lunch with Tony Blair, the Queen—no doubt trying to show her common touch by sitting with an autoworker and a policewoman—made an unusually personal speech, praising her husband as “my strength and stay all these years.” The Queen and Philip seemed, at last, pleased to relax their stiff upper lips. “[The Queen] has been through wars and the kind of domestic dramas we can only guess at,” says royal watcher Judy Wade. “But couples who stay together that long settle down into a kind of glow. ”