Queen And Philip Marking 70 Years Since Official Engagement

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's engagement was celebrated 70 years ago at Buckingham Palace.

On July 10 1947, Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, as they were then known, were pictured arm in arm at the royal residence to mark the official announcement.

Elizabeth was just 21 and Philip, who had renounced his Greek royal title and become a naturalised British subject, was 26.

The beaming princess was wearing her elegant, square cut diamond and platinum engagement ring which the groom had had made using stones from one of his mother's tiaras.

A delighted looking Philip, who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, was dressed in his smart naval suit for the engagement photos.

The Queen and Philip will reach a milestone 70 years of marriage - their platinum anniversary - in November.

The 96-year-old Duke, who recently spent a short spell in hospital, is gearing up for his retirement from public duties after the summer following decades of royal service.

It was in 1939 that Elizabeth was said to have fallen for Philip as a teenager.

The distant cousins had been at the same gatherings on a number of occasions, but had their first publicised and pivotal meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, in July that year when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited with their two daughters.

Dashing, blond-haired, athletic 18-year-old Philip caught Lilibet's eye as he entertained her by jumping over tennis nets.

The king's official biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, recalled: "This was the man with whom Princess Elizabeth had been in love from their first meeting."

Elizabeth could have married Philip when she was 17 - the age of his first formal request to be considered as a suitor - but her parents thought she was too young.

From that time they maintained a regular correspondence and met on several occasions.

Philip was invited to spend Christmas 1943 with the royal family at Windsor Castle and by the end of the war newspapers were speculating about romance.

While Philip was away at sea, the princess kept a picture of him in her room.

She later replaced the photograph of a clean-shaven Philip with one of him sporting a large beard to prevent him being recognised and stop any gossip about their relationship.

It has been suggested that they became unofficially engaged in summer 1946 while they were staying at Balmoral, but the official announcement was delayed until after the princess reached the age of 21 and returned from a royal tour of South Africa in 1947.

They married in Westminster Abbey on November 20 1947, with the bride dressed in an ivory silk Norman Hartnell gown, decorated with 10,000 seed pearls, glittering crystals and an intricate 13ft star-patterned train.

Within five years, the princess had acceded to the throne, and is she now the nation's longest reigning monarch.

Their long-lasting union is seen as a key source of stability within the monarchy.

On their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, the Queen paid a touching tribute to her husband, saying: "He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years."