Queen Elizabeth Last Spent Christmas Without Prince Philip 65 Years Ago — Here's Why

This Saturday will mark the first Christmas for the Queen since Prince Philip died in April at age 99

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, arrive at the opening of the Royal Ascot, on June 19, 1956.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1956. Photo: INTERCONTINENTALE/AFP via Getty

This year marks the first Christmas that Queen Elizabeth since her husband Prince Philip's death in April, but it's not the first time she's spent the holiday without him.

The couple spent Christmas Day apart in 1956, when Prince Philip was traveling aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. He boarded in October of that year for a voyage lasting over three months, during which he opened the Olympic Games at Melbourne, Australia.

In photos from ITV's documentary Philip: Prince, Husband, Father, which is airing in the U.K. on Tuesday night, Philip is seen laughing with the crew members as a balloon with the words "A Happy Christmas, Dukie" is displayed in the background.

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Queen Elizabeth was back in the U.K. with the couple's two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, for the holiday. However, the couple made sure to chat — Prince Philip called his wife by radio from the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Archive picture shows Prince Philip Christmas Day 1956 onboard Britannia
Prince Philip. ITV

During her annual Christmas speech, the monarch made sure to include a nod to her husband.

"Of all the voices we have heard this afternoon, none has given my children and myself greater joy than that of my husband," she said. "To him I say: 'From all the members of the family gathered here today our very best good wishes go out to you and to every one on board Britannia, as you voyage together in the far Southern seas. Happy Christmas from us all.' "

The Queen continued, "Of course it is sad for us to be separated on this day, and of course we look forward to the moment when we shall all again be together. Yet my husband's absence at this time has made me even more aware than I was before of my own good fortune in being one of a united family."

A laughing Princess Anne sits with her mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Charles in a car taking them from Buckingham Palace to King's Cross Station, London. They were on their way to Sandringham for the Christmas holidays.
PA Images via Getty

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The Queen, 95, announced Monday that she would not travel to Sandringham for Christmas with the royal family per tradition due to the rising number of COVID cases in the U.K.

The holiday festivities were were also canceled last year amid the pandemic. Instead, the Queen and Prince Philip quietly celebrated Christmas at Windsor Castle together.

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