United Kingdom

How the Queen and Prince Philip joyfully lived like a 'normal couple' in early years

The Queen kept her beloved husband poignantly close during yesterday's funeral by carrying special mementoes from their life together inside her handbag.

One item was believed to be a small photograph of the couple together - thought to have been taken in Malta - which she carried alongside one of his trademark white handkerchiefs.

The island was a deeply special place for both the Queen and Philip. 

While it has not been revealed what picture was chosen by Her Majesty to commemorate her marriage of more-than 70 years, it is widely-known that the early years were some of the couple's most blissfully happy.

When then-Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten were married in 1947, post-war Britain faced serious fuel shortages and power cuts amid heavy snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures.

A picture of the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Malta, where the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed with the Royal Navy. There is no suggestion the Queen kept this photo with her during the funeral

Alone in grief, the Queen sat on the opposite side of the church as she says goodbye to her husband at his funeral in extraordinary and poignant circumstances due to the pandemic

When then-Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten were married in 1947, post-war Britain faced serious fuel shortages and power cuts amid heavy snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures

Princess Elizabeth and Philip looking at wedding photographs in the grounds of Broadlands during their honeymoon

The Queen and Prince Philip are pictured at Villa Guardamangia in 1950. The couple lived at the home between 1949 and 1951

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip dance the samba during a ball organized by the Royal Navy on December 18, 1950, at La Valette

The highly-anticipated nuptials came as a welcome escape and received immense attention from the public.

In a letter to her cousin and lifelong friend the Honourable Margaret Rhodes, the Queen said of her life as a newlywed: 'I'm blissfully happy, in case you weren't aware of the fact and I'm enjoying being married to the best and nicest man in the world.'

Following the wedding, the couple spent their wedding night at the home of the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, in Broadlands.

There they were subject to scrutiny from the press and public in their droves. 

From there the couple travelled to Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate for the rest of their honeymoon- which was a much more peaceful affair. 

Then, as newlyweds Philip and the Queen lived in Villa Guardamangia, on the outskirts of the capital Valletta, between 1949 and 1951, while the Prince was stationed there as a naval officer with HMS Magpie.

The then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip are pictured at Villa Guardamangia on the outskirts of Valletta in 1950

The couple stand together on a roof promenade above Villa Guardamangia overlooking Marsamxett Harbour in Malta in 1949

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Malta, where he was stationed with the Royal Navy 1947

The Queen later described it as one of the best periods of her life as it was the only time she was able to live 'normally'. 

The couple returned often, including to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007.

Heritage Malta – the country's national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage – is in the preliminary stages of restoring the mid-18th century Villa Guardamangia to its former glory after acquiring it in June last year.

Heritage Malta's chief operating officer, Kenneth Gambin, said there was 'a feeling of sadness' on the island after Philip's death.

'He was remembered fondly, because everyone knew that Malta had a special place in his heart.

The Queen and Prince Philip, dancing at a state ball at the palace in Valletta during a Commonwealth Visit to Malta in 1967

The Queen and Philip at their home in Malta where they lived during the early years of their marriage

The then-Maltese president Marie Louise Coleiro presented the Queen and the duke with a watercolour of Villa Guardamangia during the trip (pictured)

The Duke of Edinburgh is seen whispering in the ear of Roman Catholic Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna: 'I tell you a secret we are all Christians'

'People remain somewhat attached to him because they know that he remembered Malta fondly. He took every opportunity to come here again when he could.'

The royal husband and wife's stay in Malta offered them their only real taste of life as a relatively ordinary couple before the Queen's ascension to the throne.

They had the freedom to enjoy parties, picnics and boat expeditions, and the princess was even able to take a trip to the hairdressers for the first time.

A young Philip and the then-Princess Elizabeth spent some of the early years of their marriage together at Villa Guardamangia. Heritage Malta – the country's national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage – is in the preliminary stages of restoring the mid-18th century Villa Guardamangia to its former glory after acquiring it in June last year

A man walks past the entrance of the Queen and Philip's former home Villa Guardamangia on the outskirts of Valletta in Malta

Sofas left by the previous occupant of Villa Guardamangia, a palazzo-style residence on the outskirts of Valletta

Mr Gambin said the duke also enjoyed playing polo and the couple had a 'very peaceful, friendly co-existence' with the local Maltese while renting the 18-room villa.

'It was their Malta home and during those couple of years both Philip and Elizabeth are on record saying that they are at least one of the happiest moments of their life because they could live a private family life,' Mr Gambin said.

How the Queen ended up at 18th century property Guardamangia Hill after it was rented to Philip's uncle Lord Mountbatten

The villa stands proudly in a narrow street at the top of Guardamangia Hill, and at the time commanded sweeping views of the harbour of Marsamxett and Valletta, where the Navy's frigates were moored.

Much of the structure was built in limestone in the mid-18th century as a summer house. 

Additions early in the 19th century included a belvedere overlooking a large, enclosed garden that served as a backdrop to one of the most frequently used pictures of the young royal couple on the island.

Malta was then a bustling British colony and a key naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean and on the route to India.

Guardamangia Hill itself was named after a 'guardia' or guard, which Maltese and British troops jointly mounted as they trapped French Napoleonic forces for almost two years in Valletta, a siege that led the British to take over Malta at the islanders' invitation in 1800.

The property was rented in 1929 to Lord Louis Mountbatten, Philip's uncle, who made it available to the royal couple.

It featured six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a grand hall, servants' quarters on the ground floor and, unusually for Malta, a fireplace in most rooms. The main entrance was through a small but elaborately decorated porch accessed by steps on each side.

Those were relatively relaxing times for Elizabeth, then in her early twenties. Security was light and she felt comfortable enough driving herself around in a humble Morris Minor.

Newspapers chronicled people turning up at the villa to hand her oranges. They reported her going to the cinema and a local hairdresser, enjoying picnics in the countryside and swimming at Sliema beach, three miles from her home.

Pictures show the princess chatting with locals, including an old lady weaving traditional lace. She hosted parties for service wives at the villa.

The royal couple left Malta in 1950 for the birth of Elizabeth's second child, Princess Anne, in August 1950, but they were back by Christmas.

They never again set foot in the villa after their departure in 1951, despite returning to Malta several times in later years.

'They had a life of their own. Elizabeth was not queen yet so she could afford having an ordinary sort of life.'

He added: 'Most probably they enjoyed most the fact that they could be themselves without too much worry about official business, they wouldn't have journalists chasing them or what have you.'

The Malta of 70 years ago was a 'quiet place', Mr Gambin explained, adding: 'The population was still low, there was a lot of countryside, the economy was still intimately tied with the British Empire, Malta was still a British colony obviously.'

He added: 'It was a safe place and it was still very much the centre of Royal Navy activity.'

Commenting on relations with the locals, Mr Gambin said: 'All witnesses recount that it was a very friendly relationship always.

'There are witnesses who say that when sometimes Princess Elizabeth required something she would just go and buy it.'

The future Queen split her time between the island and England, where a young Prince of Wales remained with his grandparents, leaving Malta for a time in 1950 to give birth to Princess Anne.  

The Queen has spoken of her 'deep affection' for the country she once called home.

In 2015, while in Malta, she said: 'Visiting Malta is always very special for me. I remember happy days here with Prince Philip when we were first married.'

The then-Maltese president Marie Louise Coleiro presented the Queen and the duke with a watercolour of Villa Guardamangia during the trip.

During yesterday's service commemorating the life of Britain's longest-serving consort, the Queen wiped away tears and bowed her head in reverence as she accompanied her husband's coffin on its final journey.

The couple's eldest son Prince Charles cried as he walked behind the casket into church followed by other devastated royals. 

As is her custom, the Queen's handbag was by British brand Launer, which has held a Royal Warrant since 1968. She is understood to own around 200 of the bags, in different styles and colours to match her outfits.

They have long also been used to carry precious objects including, reportedly, a collection of good luck charms given to her by her children and grandchildren. But perhaps none will be more significant, nor more heartfelt, than those she carried to bid her husband goodbye.

During her husband's Covid-secure Windsor Castle funeral, the grief-stricken monarch left a personal, handwritten message to Philip placed alongside a wreath of white lilies, small white roses and white freesia chosen by her.

Photos from yesterday afternoon show only a glimpse of the note, which appears to be written on official card from Buckingham Palace. However, the Palace has not yet confirmed the content of the note.

The note appears to have been her parting gift from Her Majesty to her husband of 73 years, for whom she was forced to mourn away from her family in St George's Chapel as she said goodbye to her 'strength and stay'.

She also brought out the diamond Richmond Brooch, a present from the town of Richmond for her grandmother Queen Mary's 1893 wedding to the future King George V which she inherited, for the ceremony. 

The Duke of Edinburgh's coffin was covered in his personal standard and carried his sword, naval cap and a wreath of flowers with a handwritten note from his wife as pallbearers placed him on to his extraordinary self-designed green Land Rover Defender hearse in the castle's quadrangle packed with hundreds of armed personnel.

After the eight minute procession and the 50 minute service, his coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault. A lament was played by a lone piper of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Last Post was then sounded by buglers of Philip's beloved Royal Marines who then played Action Stations at the specific request of The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen is conducted by the Dean of Windsor into the Quire of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle

The Queen stands alone as she watches Prince Philip's coffin being carried by soldiers on its final journey into St George's Chapel, Windsor yesterday for the funeral of her beloved husband

Philip's coffin had his standard, navy cap and a sword given to him by the Queen's father when they married 73 years ago as the Queen sat alone on the left as it was placed ahead of the altar

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pronounced the Blessing before the 30 royal mourners silently filed out of the church into cars to take them the short journey back to castle. Harry and William decided to walk back with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and were seen smiling speaking animatedly as they were reunited for the first time in a year where their relationship became fractured.

The emotional Queen had arrived at the funeral as the national anthem played and the royal Bentley stopped next to her beloved husband's coffin, where she poignantly paused for a moment of reflection as cannons fired and bells tolled in remembrance of the duke, wiping tears from her eyes.

Her Majesty was then driven to St George's Chapel with her lady in waiting Susan Hussey, before being sat alone at the front of the church where she stood and bowed her head during the national minute's silence. She looked at the coffin throughout the poignant service, where the majority of her children and grandchildren were on the verge of tears.

The Queen is greeted by the Right Reverend David Conner, Dean of Windsor, as she arrives at St George's Chapel followed by Camilla and Kate

The emotional Queen wipes away a tear in the back of the royal Bentley as she saw the procession

Following behind the coffin was the royal procession, led by Philip's children Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. The grandchildren, including Prince William and Prince Harry, followed but the feuding brothers were separated by their cousin Peter Phillips, viewed as a 'peacemaker' between the two.

The Duke of Cambridge entered the chapel one place ahead of his younger brother, as the mourners filed into the historic gothic chapel without saying anything to each other. But they later spoke as they walked back to the castle, with Kate taking a step back to let them spend time alone.

The Queen had decided that no royals should wear military uniform after Prince Andrew demanded to dress as an Admiral and Prince Harry was stripped of his titles. They were allowed to wear their medals, however. Andrew was seen driving away in a casual suit and aviator sunglasses around an hour after the funeral ended.

Football news:

Griezmann spoke with Hamilton and visited the Mercedes boxes at the Spanish Grand Prix
Barcelona feels that Neymar used it. He said that he wanted to return, but extended his contract with PSG (RAC1)
Aubameyang to the Arsenal fans: We wanted to give you something good. I am sorry that we could not
Atletico did not lose at the Camp Nou. Busquets' injury is the turning point of the match (and the championship race?)
Verratti injured his knee ligaments in PSG training. Participation in the Euro is still in question
Neymar's contract in one picture. Mbappe wants the same one
Manchester United would like to sign Bellingham in the summer, not Sancho. Borussia do not intend to sell Jude