A young Elizabeth only ever had eyes for Philip

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Queen Elizabeth had to fight for the love of her life.

Whispering courtiers – along with Elizabeth’s father King George VI – had reservations about Philip Mountbatten, a young, dashing naval officer. But the young Elizabeth only ever had eyes for Prince Philip. And upon the Duke of Edinburgh's death on April 9, the couple had the longest royal marriage in history, having celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in Nov. 2020.

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen, told PEOPLE, “She fell in love at age 18 and she never looked at anyone else.”

The royal couple’s love story was portrayed in the first season of the Netflix hit The Crown. “One of Elizabeth’s greatest achievements is being allowed to marry the love of her life. Like any marriage, it would undertake endless recalibration and navigation and re-negotiation,” said executive producer Suzanne Mackie.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day
| Credit: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

The late Sir Edward Ford, who was assistant private secretary from 1952-67, confirmed the skittishness felt by the older guard. He previously told PEOPLE, “Some were very concerned. The line was slightly tenuous at that point. So, it was only natural that the older generation — friends of the King like Lord Salisbury — were concerned that who the Queen was with was totally and utterly suitable. So they were sniffing around to see what he was like.”

Royal Couple
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty

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But Ford noted that Philip always had an inner confidence. “He was a perfectly natural young sailor and very much in love with the girl of the house. But he would not in any way fawn on the elders and say, ‘What a suitable husband I am going to be.’ He was very much his own man.”