Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's Wedding: All the Details

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip shared the longest marriage in royal history, and it all started with an elaborate wedding at Westminster Abbey

Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II with her husband Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, on their wedding day, 20th November 1947
Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis

On Nov. 20, 1947, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip tied the knot, marking the beginning of what would become the longest royal marriage in history. Spanning the entirety of the late monarch's 70-year reign and then some, the couple's union was one built on love and acceptance.

"I think the main lesson we have learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient in any happy marriage," Prince Philip, who died in April 2021, said in a tribute for the couple's 50th anniversary. "You can take it from me, the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance."

The pair first met at the 1934 wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, when Elizabeth was just 8 years old and Philip was 13. It wasn't until years later, however, when the princess visited Dartmouth Naval College with her parents as a teenager and spent time with the young cadet that she developed feelings for her would-be suitor. "She fell in love, and she never looked at anyone else," biographer Sally Bedell Smith told PEOPLE in 2021.

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As the Queen, who passed away on Sept. 8, 2022, wrote in since-auctioned letters to Royal Wedding author Betty Shew, "I was 13 years of age and he was 18 and a cadet just due to leave. He joined the Navy at the outbreak of war, and I only saw him very occasionally when he was on leave — I suppose about twice in three years."

Still, they kept in touch, and by June 1947, the couple announced their engagement. Philip proposed with a platinum ring he had created at Philip Antrobus Ltd. (now Pragnell) using diamonds from a tiara the prince was given by his mother, Princess Alice of Battenburg.

Naturally, the future Queen said yes. "Prince Philip is the only man in the world who treats the Queen simply as another human being," her former private secretary, Lord Charteris, once said. "He's the only man who can. Strange as it may seem, I believe she values that."

Five months later, the twosome wed at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony came on the heels of World War II, forcing some restrictions (the princess's wedding gown, for instance, was purchased with rationing coupons). Still, it proved to be an epic event that was celebrated by thousands the world over.

Below, read every detail of the couple's nuptials, from their 900-pound cake that was cut with a sword to the 10,000 notes of congratulations they received in its aftermath.

The Date

Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, on the occasion of their engagement at Buckingham Palace in London, July 1947
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip wed on Nov. 20, 1947, at 11:30 a.m. GST.

The Pre-Wedding Celebration

Two days before the ceremony, the young couple was celebrated with a ball at Buckingham Palace that would later reportedly be described as a "sensational evening," for which "everyone looked shiny and happy" — particularly the guests of honor, who appeared "radiant."

The Venue

Princess Elizabeth and The Duke Of Edinburgh kneeling in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury during their marriage ceremony in Westminster Abbey
Central Press/Getty

The young royal became the 10th member of the British monarchy to be married at Westminster Abbey — the same place where her father, King George VI, was crowned just 11 years earlier and where Queen Elizabeth herself would be coronated five years after her nuptials. (The monarch's funeral will be held at the church on September 19.)

The architectural work of art, which was largely rebuilt in a gothic style in the 13th century by King Henry III, was also the setting for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011.

Founded by Benedictine monks in 960 A.D., the Abbey became a coronation church in 1066 when William the Conqueror ascended the throne. It serves as the final resting place of 17 monarchs.

The Title

Just ahead of the pair's nuptials, Prince Philip received new titles, becoming the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich.

The Guests

Though Elizabeth's father, King George VI, was reportedly warned to keep the princess's wedding ceremony "simple" in the wake of the war, the guest list was far from small, with a reported 2,000 people on the list.

Among them were five kings, five queens and eight princes and princesses, including King Michael of Romania, King Haakon VII of Norway, King Faisal of Iraq, King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Prince Philip's uncle, Earl Louis Mountbatten and the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Princess Elisabeth of Luxembourg.

The Transportation

<a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> II (in coach) and her husband <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, Duke of Edinburgh are cheered by the crowd after their wedding ceremony, on November 20, 1947, on their road to Buckingham Palace, London
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The princess rode with her father in the Irish State Coach to her wedding venue with the British Life Guards regiment as their escorts. According to the Royal Collection Trust, it was the first time the regiment had worn its "full-dress" uniforms since 1939.

On the way back, the bride rode with her new husband in the Glass Coach that was purchased for King George VI's coronation in 1911.

The Dress

<a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> II, as Princess Elizabeth, and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, styled <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a> in 1957, on their wedding day. She became queen on her father King George VI's death in 1952
Hulton Archive/Getty

Elizabeth chose a wedding gown design that was submitted by British designer Norman Hartnell just three months before the wedding. It took him and his team of roughly 350 seamstresses just seven weeks to create the piece, which was paid for in part by rationing coupons. According to the groom's cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, women were even sending their own clothing coupons to Buckingham Palace to help, though they were ultimately returned. "It showed how people wanted to be involved," she told PEOPLE in 2020.

The gown, which was made of Duchesse satin from Scotland and silk, turned out to be exquisite, with a 15-foot silk tulle train that attached at the shoulders and a bodice encrusted with 10,000 seed pearl and diamanté crystals which formed flowers, roses, jasmine blossoms and ears of wheat. Hartnell was reportedly inspired by the Botticelli painting "Primavera" — a symbol of the coming of spring — and later referred to the gown as the "most beautiful dress" he'd ever made.

Seamstress Betty Foster told The Telegraph in 2007 that Elizabeth didn't try it on before her wedding day as she was "respecting the tradition that it would be unlucky."

The Tiara

Princess Elizabeth leaving Westminster Abbey, after her wedding to The <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, Duke of Edinburgh
Topical Press Agency/Getty

Queen Elizabeth's most notable piece of jewelry on her special day was the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara she wore atop her head — her "something borrowed" from her grandmother, Mary of Teck. Once a fringe necklace, Mary had it recreated as a tiara in 1893, and on Elizabeth's wedding day, it seemingly snapped. "The catch, which I didn't know existed, it suddenly went," the Queen later explained. "And I didn't know it was a necklace, you see … I thought I'd broken it … We stuck it all together again, but I was rather alarmed."

A jeweler at Garrard was able to repair it in record time, however, sending it back to the princess by police escort just in time for her nuptials. "With her bridal dress and tiara on her wedding day, she was a knockout," Lady Pamela Hicks told PEOPLE. "And, of course, Philip was every girl's dream Viking prince."

She added: "[Elizabeth] really was radiant, with her diamond tiara on top. And she was very much in love."

The Shoes

A close-up of the wedding shoes of Princess Elizabeth, 'Ivory Duchess' satin self-lined sandals designed by Rayne. The buckles are silver, studded with small pearls
Central Press/Getty

To complement her gorgeous dress, the princess wore a pair of ivory Duchesse satin heels by Edward Rayne. The silver buckle was studded with silver seed pearl detailing that matched her dress.

The Jewelry

Princess Elizabeth and The <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, Duke of Edinburgh waving to a crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London shortly after their wedding at Westminster Abbey
Keystone/Getty

In addition to her borrowed tiara, Elizabeth wore two pearl necklaces for her big day — the Queen Anne necklace and the Queen Caroline necklace, after King George II's wife. The princess received both baubles as a wedding present from her father, King George VI, who inherited them as part of the royal collection.

According to Queen and Consort: Elizabeth and Philip: 60 Years of Marriage, the princess narrowly avoided another mishap when the necklaces accidentally got left behind at St. James Palace, where the couple's other wedding gifts were displayed. It needed to be retrieved by Elizabeth's newly appointed private secretary, Jock Colville, who had to fight through the crowds at both St. James and Buckingham Palace to get them to her in time for her vows.

The Flowers

Florist Martin Longman, of Fenchurch Street, who has been appointed to make Princess Elizabeth's bouquet for her wedding to <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, at work with his assistants Mary Nelson and Constance Fears, 5th November 1947. He is keeping the design a secret until the day of the wedding
Chris Ware/Keystone/Getty

In her hands, the princess carried an arrangement crafted by florist Martin Longman of Fenchurch Street, created with flowers from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. Longman kept the design, which featured white orchids and a sprig of myrtle (a tradition that started with Queen Victoria, who received it from Prince Albert's grandmother) a secret until the ceremony.

Though the bridal party thought it lost for a time (a mishap that caused the royals to do a reshoot of their wedding portraits), it was ultimately located in an icebox, where a footman had placed them to preserve them, according to Queen Consort: Elizabeth and Philip: 60 Years of Marriage.

"In the middle of their honeymoon they had to get dressed up again in their wedding clothes and my father had to provide another bouquet for those photos," David Longman later revealed in the ITV documentary, Invitation to the Royal Wedding.

The couple's wedding favors, meanwhile, were made up of individual posies of myrtle and white Balmoral heather.

The morning after the ceremony, Elizabeth's bouquet was sent to lie on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a tradition that started with Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth I, who did so on her own wedding day in 1923. The gesture was in honor of her brother Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who had lost his life eight years prior during World War I.

The Wedding Party

Princess Elizabeth, <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, Duke of Edinburgh with King George VI and <a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> (right) and members of the immediate and extended Royal Family at Buckingham Palace after their wedding
Topical Press Agency/Getty

Princess Elizabeth was joined by eight bridesmaids, including her sister, Princess Margaret, her first cousins, Princess Alexandra of Kent and Margaret Elpinstone, her second cousin, Lady Mary Cambridge, Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Philip's cousin, Pamela Mountbatten and her niece, Diana Bowes-Lyon. Each one wore a gown by Hartnell of tulle with small satin flowers — the reverse of Elizabeth's own Hartnell creation. As Mountbatten (later known as Lady Pamela Hicks) told PEOPLE in 2020, "Tulle could easily be acquired, whereas duchess satin was so difficult to get in those days."

According to Lynne Bell's 2007 book, Queen and Consort: Elizabeth and Philp: 60 Years of Marriage, Prince Philip designed gold compacts engraved in jewels with his and Elizabeth's initials for the party. As for the groom, he had his own first cousin, David Mountbatten, by his side as best man. Serving as page boys were Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent.

The Wedding Ring

During the ceremony, Princess Elizabeth received a wedding ring made from the same Welsh gold as her mother's ring. In the 2020 book, Prince Philip: Revealed, author Ingrid Seward claimed that it was engraved with a secret message that only the bride, the groom and the engraver knew.

The Service

Princess Elizabeth and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a> make their way down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, London, on their wedding day
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty

The royal couple was wed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, and the Archbishop of York, Cyril Garbett, who "urged upon the young couple patience, a ready sympathy and forbearance."

Music, meanwhile, was provided by William Neil McKie, who directed a group of 91 singers made up of members of the Abbey choir, the Chapel Royal choir and the St. George's Chapel choir.

Together, they sang a series of hymns, including "Praise, my soul, the king of heaven" and "The Lord's my shepherd," as well as a "vocal musical composition" McKie composed for the occasion. According to the British royal family's official website, Elizabeth and Philip's wedding anthem was "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. They left the Abbey to Felix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March."

The Breakfast

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds headed back to Buckingham Palace in the glass coach. Once there, they famously waved to the crowd of roughly 100,000 gathered outside from the balcony before heading inside to the Ball Supper Room, where they enjoyed a more intimate wedding breakfast for just 146 guests.

Among them, according to the Royal Collection Trust, were members of the royal families from Greece, Denmark, Iraq, Norway, Roumania, Spain, Yugoslavia and Sweden.

The Food

Former royal chef Darren McGrady shared the menu for the couple's wedding breakfast on Twitter ahead of their platinum wedding anniversary in 2017. To start, Filet de Sole Mountbatten (a nod to Prince Philip's surname), followed by "perdreau en casserole (partridges in a casserole), with green beans, noisette potatoes and royal salad. According to McGrady, the partridges were chosen as they were not subject to rationing like other foods at the time.

For dessert, guests were treated to Bombe Glacee Princesse Elizabeth — an ice cream dish made with fresh strawberries. According to McGrady, the out-of-season fruit was meant to be a luxury and was grown in hot houses at Windsor Castle.

The Cake

<a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">QUEEN ELIZABETH</a> & <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">PRINCE PHILIP</a>
PA/Abaca

The newlyweds served a whopping 11 cakes at their breakfast, even though their main cake was plenty huge: Created by McVitie & Price, the 9-foot-tall masterpiece boasted four tiers and weighed 900 pounds, according to the Royal Collection Trust. Nicknamed the 10,000-mile cake for its ingredients, which were internationally sourced, it was so big that it was actually cut with the groom's own naval sword, which had been a present from King George VI.

More than just being big, the fruity concoction was highly intricate, featuring decorations of the coat of arms for both Elizabeth and Philip's families, the bride and groom's monograms, naval badges and sugar icing figures showcasing their favorite activities. Read a 1947 press release acquired by Hello! Magazine: "Each piece of sugar work was made separately and then fitted into its place on the cake."

The bottom tier, meanwhile, featured a silver coin, a thimble, a bell, a button, a boot and a horseshoe, all of which were meant to give the newlyweds good luck.

The couple's leftovers were put to good use and distributed throughout the kingdom to hospitals, schools and charitable institutions.

The Exit

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in a carriage procession to Waterloo Station for their train to Winchester for the start of their honeymoon
PA Images

As the couple was leaving for their honeymoon at Birkhall at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland in an open-drawn carriage, they were showered with rose petals by the Queen Mother. The princess, who had changed into a mist blue coat dress Norman Hartnell, also had her corgi Susan on her lap, peeking out from under a rug.

The Gifts

From her parents, Elizabeth not only received the two pearl necklaces she wore around her neck, but also a sapphire-and-diamond necklace and earring set and a pair of diamond Cartier earrings, according to Bell's Queen Consort: Elizabeth and Philip: 60 Years of Marriage.

The princess's grandmother, Queen Mary, gifted her with even more jewels, including an antique diamond stomacher, diamond Indian bangle brooches and a pair of ruby earrings Mary had received from Elizabeth's father for her 59th birthday. She also gave the couple a bookcase.

Royal dignitaries gave the new bride and her groom rubies, a 54.5-carat uncut pink diamond (this from Canada's John T. Williamson), emeralds and diamonds, as well as a racehorse, a Kenyan hunting lodge, a TV, a mink coat, a Singer sewing machine, a fridge and maple furniture for the couple's home. President Truman reportedly sent a Steuben crystal bowl engraved with a merry-go-round, and Mahatma Gandhi sent a piece of cotton lace that he himself had reportedly spun with the words "Jai Hind," which translates to "Victory for India."

The young couple was also showered with a reported 10,000 notes of congratulations and more than 2,500 presents, including 386 pairs of stockings (then in short supply), from their subjects.

The bride's biggest gift of all, however, just may have come from the groom. Not only did he present her with a brooch in the shape of a Royal Navy badge with more diamonds from his mother's tiara and a diamond bracelet he himself had designed, but he also promised his new wife that he would quit smoking — a habit she reportedly detested — and kept his word.

The Impact

Princess Elizabeth and The <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>, Duke of Edinburgh enjoying a walk during their honeymoon at Broadlands, Romsey, Hampshire
Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty

The royal couple's ceremony was heard by roughly 200 million people worldwide on BBC Radio. Though it was not televised, cinemas around the country also showed a film of their nuptials.

Following the event, more than 200,000 people are estimated to have made the trek to St James's Palace, where Elizabeth and Philip's wedding gifts were placed on display. The princess's Norman Harnell gown, meanwhile, went on to tour the country.

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