On November 20, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh will have been married for sixty-five years, the longest royal marriage in British history. The royal couple plan to publicly mark their Blue Sapphire anniversary by attending the Royal Variety Performance at Royal Albert Hall, the evening of November 19. This televised gala performance showcases family entertainment including comedy, song and dance, raising money for the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, which supports elderly members of the entertainment industry. Queen Elizabeth II is the Patron of this philanthropic organization and there have always been members of the royal family present at the Royal Variety Performance since its inception in 1912.
On November 20, the Queen and Prince Philip will enjoy a rare day without public engagements, marking the anniversary privately at Buckingham Palace. Although the Queen is now 86 years old and the Duke of Edinburgh is 91, they still perform a full program of public duties. In 2012, they toured the United Kingdom to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and participated in the Thames Jubilee Pageant. Although Prince Philip was unable to attend the remainder of the London Diamond Jubilee celebrations due to a bladder infection, he resumed royal duties after his recovery, attending the opening of the Olympic Games with the Queen.
Although the royal couple will not be attending public engagements on their 65th wedding anniversary, the Queen’s duties as Head of State will not pause for this historic occasion. The red boxes containing cabinet and foreign and commonwealth documents will be delivered to the palace for the Queen’s attention as they are on every other day excluding Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.
On November 20, the Queen will also have two morning audiences. Her Majesty receive the High Commissioner for Belize, the only English speaking constitutional monarchy in Central America. Belize is currently involved in a border dispute with neighbouring Guatemala, which has claimed Belizean territory since 1940 and this matter will likely comprise part of the High Commissioner’s audience with the Queen. The monarchy reaffirmed its relationship with Belize earlier in 2012, when Prince Harry made a highly successful Jubilee visit to the Central American nation.
The Queen will also receive the outgoing and incoming Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh, the Territorial Army Battalion formed from the current Royal Welsh Regiment, part of the Prince of Wales’s division. Elizabeth II’s audiences on her anniversary demonstrate her commitment to her roles as Head of the Commonwealth and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The presence of the High Commissioner of Belize and Commanding Officers of The Royal Welsh Battalion on a day otherwise devoid of royal engagements also demonstrates the degree to which the Queen’s public and private lives are closely intertwined both in practice and in the popular imagination.
The Queen has paid tribute to Prince Philip at key anniversaries throughout their marriage and her reign. During her speech to the Members of Parliament at Westminster Hall in March, 2012, Her Majesty stated, “Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.”
The Queen expressed similar sentiments on her Golden Anniversary in speech at London’s Guildhall in 1997, stating, “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”
The circumstances of the royal marriage have not been easy. Prince Philip was initially distrusted by prominent members of the English aristocracy for his foreign origins and interest in modernizing the royal household. The Duke of Edinburgh left a promising naval career to support the Queen in her royal duties after she ascended to the throne in 1952. The long gap between the birth of Princess Anne in 1950 and the birth of Prince Andrew in 1960 fuelled popular speculation of difficulties within the royal marriage.
The Queen’s tributes to Prince Philip in recent years suggests that the bond between them has only strengthened with the passing decades, creating a long and enduring union. Tomorrow’s anniversary without public engagements provides the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with a rare opportunity to spend a day in each others company without being in the public eye, as they have been for most of their sixty-five year marriage.