How World War II Affected Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's Wedding

Think you know what Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's wedding was really like after watching The Crown? Sure, the Netflix drama sticks pretty close to history, but there are actually a few pretty big differences between the show and what the royal couple's nuptials were really like. Elizabeth and Philip's big day was one of the first in a long line of high-profile royal unions that the public flocked to the streets to witness, like the weddings of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco and, later on, Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Though their November 1947 wedding was spectacular in some ways, they also had one of the most low-key royal weddings due to wartime austerity. Let's dive into the event, from start to finish.


  • Their union was frowned upon by many. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who are actually cousins, didn't have an easy journey to the aisle. Due to Philip's arrogance and lack of funds, it was widely considered that the future queen should pick another suitor. Fortunately, Elizabeth ignored the doubters and moved forward with the wedding.
  • Prince Philip planned a sweet proposal. While walking around the grounds of Balmoral Castle (in Scotland), Philip popped the question. Since Elizabeth's parents didn't approve at the time, they had to keep it a secret for quite a while.
  • The queen's engagement and wedding rings are both stunners. Prince Philip proposed with a three-carat diamond and platinum engagement ring crafted by Philip Antrobus. The jewelry company took diamonds from a tiara belonging to Prince Philip's mother, Princess Andrew of Greece, adding a special familial touch. For her wedding ring, a nugget of Welsh gold from the Clogau St. David's mine, near Dolgellau, was used.
  • Philip had not one but two bachelor parties. Or "stag parties," as they're called in the UK. The night before the wedding, Philip hosted a party at The Dorchester open to the press, who were invited to cover the protocol of the day. It reportedly got a little out of hand: Philip and his friends ended up ripping the flashbulbs off of a few cameras and stomping them on the ground before moving on to a private stag party at London's Belfry Club.

  • The queen's wedding gown was inspired by a painting. In Botticelli's "Primavera," the central figure wears a silky, draped ivory dress affixed with rose blossoms. This is the inspiration designer Sir Norman Hartnell took for Elizabeth's elaborate confection. The gown had a 15-foot train and 10,000 pearls sourced from the United States.
  • Queen Elizabeth II saved ration cards to afford the fabric. Despite the gown's over-the-top inspiration, Elizabeth had to hoard her ration cards in order to purchase the material needed for her wedding dress, like any other woman at that time. The fabric she ended up with was created at Winterthur Silks Limited, with silk from Lullingstone Castle's Chinese silkworms.
  • All of her jewelry held sentimental value. The tiara she wore was one of her mother's, the diamond-encrusted Queen Mary Fringe, which was actually made for Queen Mary in 1919 from a diamond necklace given to her by Queen Victoria.
  • Flowers were used sparingly as decorations. The tables at the reception were decorated with simple pink and white carnations donated by the British Carnation Society, since purse strings were tight after the war. Posies of myrtle and white heather from Balmoral were also given out as wedding favors.

  • Prince Philip quit smoking cold turkey the morning of the wedding. Due to the queen's concerns about how her father died (from lung cancer), Philip gave up his smoking habit.
  • He also gave up his titles. In order to marry Elizabeth, Philip was required to renounce his Greek and Danish titles and convert from Greek Orthodox to Anglican. In return, he became Duke of Edinburgh.
  • The guest list was simply massive. The couple certainly didn't bother with trimming their guest list. They invited over 2,000 people to their wedding at Westminster Abbey, including the King and Queen of Denmark, the Shah of Iran, the Kings of Norway, and the Queen of Yugoslavia.
  • It was the first big royal event after WWII. Though many Londoners swarmed around the palace to catch a glimpse of the queen on her wedding day, her father had been warned in David Kynaston's Austerity Britain that a flashy event would be a slap in the face to England's suffering citizens. "Any banqueting and display at your daughter’s wedding will be an insult to the British people at the present time . . . and we would consider that you would be well advised to order a very quiet wedding in keeping with the times,” he wrote.
  • The royal kneelers were made of a very surprising material. In keeping with wartime austerity, the kneelers Elizabeth and Philip used during the ceremony were actually orange boxes.
  • The queen had eight bridesmaids. To ensure Elizabeth's day ran smoothly, she had the help of Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Lady Mary Cambridge, Lady Elizabeth Lambart, Pamela Mountbatten, Margaret Elphinstone, and Diana Bowes-Lyon. She also had two adorable 5-year-old pageboys: Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent.
  • The bridesmaids wore very special wreaths in their hair. Elizabeth wasn't the only one wearing something special on the big day. Each of her bridesmaids was outfitted with a wreath made by Jac Ltd of London, who used miniature white sheaves and lilies, woven with white satin and silver. The little pages wore tartan kilts.

  • The bride's bouquet had special meaning. Queen Elizabeth II's wedding bouquet came from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It was specifically arranged by florist MH Longman, who chose white orchids and a sprig of myrtle with special significance. The myrtle came from a bush that was grown from a sprig used in Queen Victoria's wedding bouquet (insane, right?!). Years later, at the Queen's Golden Wedding celebration in 1997, she was gifted an identical bouquet.
  • She continued the tradition of putting her bouquet on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The only stone not covered by the special carpet used in Westminster Abbey on the day of Elizabeth and Philip's wedding was the grave of the Unknown Warrior. The Queen also kept with the tradition started by her mother of returning to the grave the day after she tied the knot and placing her beautiful bouquet on the stone. The tradition has continued ever since (Kate Middleton did the same thing when she married Prince William!).
  • It was one of the first TV weddings, so to speak. The ceremony was broadcast via radio the day of, and later a film of the day was shown in movie theaters around the country.
  • Their gift table basically could've stretched a mile long. Well-wishers around the world expressed their joy for the couple in the form of over 2,500 gifts. Most of them were put on display for a charity exhibition at St. James's Place in 2007, where over 200,000 visitors showed up to take a look at what Philip and Elizabeth had been given.
  • They hosted a wedding "breakfast" after the ceremony. Guests congregated at Buckingham Palace to dine on Filet de Sole Mountbatten, Perdreau en Casserole, and Bombe Glacee Princess Elizabeth. Like Elizabeth's dress, the event relied on a charity donation to make it a possibility. The nine-foot-tall wedding cake (which was a whopping 500 lbs.!) was made from ingredients donated by the Australian Girl Guides. To repay the kindness, the couple didn't eat the cake at their reception. Instead, they passed it out to local schools, hospitals, and charity organizations.