On the Death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh - Musings on Marriage
Friday 9th April will become one of those dates when people may ask, ‘Do you remember where you were when Prince Philip died?’ Of course, for many, this will not be the case. I write perhaps with bias because I was so fond of this man I never knew or met. How is this possible, that one can be ‘attached’ to someone in such a ‘detached’ way? I suppose we are entering here the realms of myth and folklore - the stories passed down over the last century of his life and times.
For me the stand-out aspects were his mischievous sense of humour (shared by all his family) and the overwhelming sense that he and our Queen, Elizabeth II, whom he affectionately called ‘Lilibet’, was indeed a true love story. It was not without its ups and downs, that much is clear and reasonably well-documented - but what marriage of longevity is any different? It is nigh on impossible to share a life with someone for 70 odd years and not have some turbulent times. The core point is the loyalty of that union, even in its moments of disloyalty or discord. There was a truth which ran through its core - one of vows made ‘for better or worse’. For a man who had suffered so much loss, grief and insecurity in his childhood what could be more steadfast than marriage to a monarch? Though this of course was not the state of affairs when they met: there was talk of him ‘showing off’ to the young Elizabeth when they first encountered each other. Just 21 when they married, she was clearly smitten. You can see by the way she looks at him - and he at her - in those early images...
Life changes and so does love. If you meet young, that is inevitable. It is how you weather those changes that is all important. And laughter and mutual respect is often the all-important glue which holds things together - and they clearly had that in abundance.
I am speaking from experience, of course. I could not say these things with any certainty if I hadn’t lived through them myself. Not the bit about being married to a monarch, of course! But the bit about the commitment required in a long marriage. I have known my husband since I was 19 - technically, since I was 15, but we weren’t going out with each other then. We lived in the same town. Our parents shared mutual friends. His brother was at 6th Form with me. He went out with girls I was at school with. We’d see each other in the local pubs. It certainly wasn’t ‘love at first sight’ for us. In fact I had a rather low opinion of him! But then Fate intervened, and we met one day and shared a pint in the sunshine by a river and he told me stories of home and family and we laughed together all afternoon. It is there that the foundations of our long union lie - in shared experience and laughter. A sense that our roots developed in the same soil and, though we grew into very different plants, we have similar sap running through our veins.
Prince Philip and our Queen Elizabeth have similar sap running through their veins too. They are both of royal blood, both descendants of Queen Victoria. They have this unspoken understanding about what it is to be royal, the sense of service and duty they both shared so clearly.
The other thing that suddenly came to me is deeply personal, but throws further light on the relationship in my eyes: Elizabeth was born on April 21st, a Taurean. My husband was born on April 23rd, a Taurean. Philip was born on 10th June, a Gemini. I was born on 8th June, a Gemini. Two days apart between him and her and me and him. Like for like. Opposite to opposite. How strange that I had never realised that before. We are peas in pods for sure: earth signs with air signs. Opposites attracting. Elizabeth displaying the same unquestioning loyal nature as my husband; Philip displaying the same mercurial questioning and restlessness as myself. She solid and committed to her life’s work; he with so many diverse interests and fingers in many different pies. As couples, we are mirror images. We find ourselves both rocks to each other. The ‘my strength and stay’ quotation applies as much to her as to him. They were mutually dependent. Symbiotic. Complementary. The yin and the yang. This physical equation is the same in my own relationship. It is one, when the sweet spot is achieved, of perfect balance.
I cannot imagine what it is to lose that other half of yourself. The half you are often tempted to think of as ‘the better half’. I always worried how the Queen would react when the time came. The world waits with bated breath to see. Whether you are pro-monarchy or anti-monarchy, this is just a human story of the marriage of two people. And as such, it is one that should be treated with the respect it deserves.
My deepest condolences and sympathies to our Queen and her family during this time of personal and national mourning.