Book review: My Husband and I: The Inside Story of 70 Years of the Royal Marriage by Ingrid Seward
With interest in the Queen and Prince Philip at a new peak thanks to the hit TV series The Crown, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine Ingrid Seward brings us the real story of the marriage of the royal couple.
Now in their 90s, but with the mental alertness and physical fitness of a couple many years younger, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last month and together have rewritten the record books.
The 91-year-old Queen is now the longest reigning British monarch in history, and her husband is the oldest ever male member of the Royal Family. At the age of 96, Prince Philip finally retired from royal duties in August.
Seward, an acclaimed royal biographer who has met both the Queen and Philip on many occasions and believes she has had a unique insight into their lives, takes us behind closed doors and reveals that there is a great deal more to them than their popular image suggests.
When a young Princess Elizabeth met and fell in love with the dashing Naval Lieutenant Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, it wasn’t without its problems but the romance between the sailor prince and the young princess brought a splash of colour to a nation still in the grip of post-war austerity.
When they married in Westminster Abbey in November 1947, there were 3,000 guests, including six kings and seven queens. Within five years, as Queen Elizabeth II, she would ascend to the throne and later be crowned in front of millions watching through the new medium of television.
Throughout her record-breaking reign, she relied on the formidable partnership she had made with her consort and by speaking to people who know them well, Seward provides a fascinating perspective on their marriage while shedding new light on their relationship and its impact on their family and on the nation.
In My Husband and I, we discover the challenges faced by Prince Philip as he has had to learn to play second fiddle to the Queen in all their public engagements, but we also get a revealing insight into how their relationship operates behind closed doors.
As the years have gone by, there have been rumours of marital troubles, fierce debates over how to bring up their children, and they have had to deal with family traumas – from scandalous divorces to shocking deaths – in the full glare of the public eye.
By focusing on their lives as parents and grandparents, their separate interests and activities and showing how this most public of families operates in private, Seward explains how the royal couple continue to thrive.
She recalls how the Queen and her consort dealt with seeing all but one of their children divorce, the loss of family members and above all the reaction to the death of Princess Diana which put their lives under scrutiny like never before. But through it all, their relationship endured and has provided a model of constancy to inspire all around them.
My Husband and I is not only a vivid portrait of a remarkable couple and a hugely important marriage but also a celebration of the enduring power of love.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)