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The Queen was barely 12 when she first met her future husband as she accompanied her father King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Dartmouth Naval Academy to meet the cadets. Among the officers was a distant cousin to then-Princess Elizabeth, Prince Philip of Denmark and Greece, who had begun his training in the UK in 1938. Lady Pamela Hicks, the daughter of Philip’s uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, said the royal was immediately struck by “this absolute Greek god” she had just met.
Speaking to National Geographic’s documentary ‘Being the Queen’ Lady Hicks said: “My father happened to be there when the King and Queen took the two girls to Dartmouth when, I think, Princess Elizabeth was only 12 years old.
“And as Prince Philip was almost a senior cadet. And, of course, this absolute Greek god.
“And I think the princess fell headlong in love with him at that moment.”
Royal biographer Elizabeth Pakenham said the Royal Family had not expected the relationship between Elizabeth and Philip to develop any further as the princess was very young when the pair first met.
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The Countess of Longford said: “The Queen was too young.
“Nobody thought of her falling in love and remaining in love with that person for the rest of her life. I mean, she was a child.”
Prince Philip and Elizabeth were soon separated by the war, during which the Navy sub-lieutenant served in both Crete and the Pacific, but continued to exchange letters through the conflict.
The Greek prince initially asked King George VI for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage in 1946 but was asked to wait until the princess turned 21 the following year.
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Philip’s family had been exiled from Greece when his uncle, King Constantine I, was deposed during a coup shortly after his birth in 1921.
His family had lost many of their possessions and the Queen’s future husband had to resort to destroying one of his mother’s last remaining heirlooms to build Elizabeth an engagement ring.
Royal commentator Ingrid Seward said: “The Queen’s engagement ring has a very romantic story to it.
“When as Princess Elizabeth she became engaged to Prince Philip he was just a naval officer on a naval officer’s pay.”
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She added: “It is a great romance and taking stones from your mum’s tiara solved the problem of not having any money.”
Royal expert Lady Colin Campbell added Philip had also added a personal touch to the special ring as he designed it himself.
Lady Campbell said: “He wanted to give something that was his and his alone.
“He got stones from his mother’s tiara and designed the ring and had it made.”
Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth officialised their engagement in early 1947 and tied the knot in 1947. Philip renounced his foreign titles before the ceremony and received the title of Duke of Edinburgh.
Following the Queen’s acession in 1952, the Duke of Edinburgh was recognised as a Prince of the United Kingdom.
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