In the season two opener of The Crown, Queen Elizabeth is told, “You married a wild spirit. Trying to tame him is no use.” The fascinating dynamic between the Queen and Prince Philip as depicted on the Netflix series offers viewers an inside look at the sometimes tumultuous but ultimately enduring marriage of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Though we’ll never know what really goes on behind the gates of Buckingham Palace, we do know that in the face of decades of unrelenting scrutiny, rumors of (his) alleged infidelity, and family scandals, Elizabeth and Philip have somehow managed to stay married an astonishing 70 years. (Just let that sink in for a moment.)
A lifetime ago, it was Philip who was the newcomer who had given up his naval career to support his wife. Although he was born into the Greek and Danish royal families, some palace insiders took their time fully accepting him into the British royal family.
Today, Meghan Markle, the ultimate outsider who said goodbye to Hollywood and is becoming a British citizen to marry Prince Harry, will no doubt be subject to unprecedented media attention and pressure from palace courtiers to “get it right” after their nuptials. If the soon-to-be-wed royal couple wants their relationship to go the distance, they’d be wise to follow these tenets for a successful marriage that Elizabeth and Philip have lived by for all these years. And for more about the royal wedding on the horizon, learn the 10 Things We Already Know About Harry and Meghan’s Wedding.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.”
The ultimate pragmatist, Elizabeth offers these words of wisdom on the series. In The Crown this season, she takes her own advice when she is faced with rumors of Philip’s alleged infidelity after the wife of the prince’s best friend and equerry (private secretary) files for divorce.
The real-life drama consumed the London papers in 1956, which speculated that the Duke of Edinburgh had entertained women during his five-month tour aboard the royal yacht Britannia. Royal aides were reportedly panicked by the rumors, but Elizabeth remained silent while the sensational episode played out over many months. (The allegations have never been proven.)
When asked about them in 1992, the prince shot back he had “never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me… So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”
Tabloid stories (many with snarky revelations about Meghan’s first marriage and her fractured family life from supposed “friends” have already begun to surface) will no doubt dog Harry and Meghan every step of the way. The couple should keep calm like the Queen, carry on, and say nothing that would add fuel to the fire.
Lay your cards on the table.
In The Crown, during that same period after their months-long separation and the press was speculating about the state of their marriage, Elizabeth asks Philip, “What is it going to take?” to get their relationship back on track. He tells her he feels he does not feel as though he is respected by courtiers and bristles about always having to walk a few steps behind his wife.
She wants him to find a purpose. In reality, one month after the headline-making tour, Philip was “promoted” to prince as a statement of the Elizabeth’s unquestionable support of her husband. Harry and Meghan, both children of divorce, have no doubt already learned from their elders that honest communication between partners is critical to the success of a marriage. And for more on achieving blissful matrimony, here are the 50 Best Marriage Tips of All Time.
Respect each other’s outside interests.
Elizabeth considers her beloved corgis “family.” Philip has never been a fan of the ever-present “bloody dogs” and reportedly asked his wife, “Why do you have so many?”
Harry, who has been shooting since he was 12 years old, enjoys the sport—especially during the family’s annual Boxing Day shoot at Sandringham. This could be tough for Meghan to accept since she is a passionate animal rights advocate. Harry has reportedly given up smoking for health-conscious Meghan, but it’s unlikely he’ll stop shooting any time soon. They’ll have to learn to live with their differences.
Embrace similar interests.
As monarch, the Queen has lived most of her adult life putting her country’s need above all else. The Crown has shown the strain that has caused in her marriage, but also revealed that Philip has always been Elizabeth’s biggest supporter of her role as sovereign. (It was his idea to televise her coronation.)
Meghan has cut ties to all her international charity commitments to join Harry (and William and Kate) to work with him on his personal foundation. “She has made the decision to start with a clean slate to focus on the UK,” said Jason Knauf, the prince’s communications secretary. Being equally committed to the same humanitarian work can only strengthen the couple’s bond.
Celebrate the milestones.
Elizabeth and Philip have marked all of major events that have occurred during their 70-year marriage together. When Princess Diana died in 1997, it was the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary that helped lift the cloud of sadness that had enveloped the family and, said Elizabeth, served as a “source of strength.”
In 2002, she lost her mother and sister. Philip was with her later that year for her Golden Jubilee marking her 50 years on the throne. This year, the lovebirds (Philip’s nickname for Elizabeth is “Cabbage”) released a new portrait that showcased their mutual affection for their Platinum anniversary. No doubt Harry and Meghan will have much to celebrate in the coming years; they should follow his grandparents’ lead and make sure they do so side by side.
Forget about the “rules.”
The truth is, no one knows what really goes on in a marriage except the two people in it. Elizabeth and Philip have had a marriage like no other. There’s no blueprint for Meghan being the first American to marry into the British royal family, so she and Harry will get to make it up as they go along. Next, read about the 30 Most Fascinating Facts about British Royal Weddings.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana: A Novel.
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