Teenage Queen and Prince Philip pictured together in rare images from 1939

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
Then-Princess Elizabeth and the future Duke of Edinburgh play croquet in a rare photo. (MOD)
Then-Princess Elizabeth and the future Duke of Edinburgh play croquet in a rare photo. (MOD)

Rare images of a teenage Princess Elizabeth and her sweetheart-to-be Prince Philip have been unearthed.

In pictures which were shared by the Ministry of Defence, a 13-year-old princess plays croquet with Prince Philip, then a naval cadet at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

Widely said to be the first time they met, the pictures show 18-year-old Philip, who was Prince of Greece and Denmark at the time, entertaining his younger cousin who was on a visit with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Explaining the moment on Twitter, the MOD said: "The photos showcase the time that the then Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was tasked to look after Princess Elizabeth after there was an outbreak of mumps which excused them from going to church.

"Among the rare photographs is one of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip playing croquet.

"These photographs were found in the private family album of the then captain of the College Capt F Dalrymple-Hamilton. The photo album came into the Britannia Royal Naval College’s possession pre-1980."

The 1939 visit of the Royal Family to the college at Dartmouth is thought of as the first time the duke and the future monarch met.

The future Queen played croquet as an outbreak of mumps stopped them going to church. (MOD)
The future Queen played croquet as an outbreak of mumps stopped them going to church. (MOD)
It was Lord Mountbatten's idea to have Prince Philip escort Princess Elizabeth around the college. (MOD)
It was Lord Mountbatten's idea to have Prince Philip escort Princess Elizabeth around the college. (MOD)

Read more: The 30 guests confirmed to be attending Prince Philip's funeral

But as the two were cousins, they had actually been at family events together before.

Gyles Brandreth, the late duke's biographer and friend, said Philip once told him of the story: "It's one of those myths that's just too good to let go. We'd certainly met before - we were cousins, after all."

He added in the Daily Mail: "Indeed, the royal couple shared the same great-great-grandparents – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – not to mention many other relatives. 

"And Philip actually recalled having met Lilibet (as he called her) when she was just eight, at the wedding of his cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, to Elizabeth's uncle George, Duke of Kent."

Nonetheless the meeting in 1939 was important and was somewhat engineered by the duke's uncle Lord Mountbatten, who thought the couple would be a good match.

Watch: New details announced for Prince Philip's funeral

The photographs were found in a personal collection. (MOD)
The photographs were found in a personal collection. (MOD)

Read more: Queen will sit alone at Prince Philip's funeral – and all mourners to wear face masks

The princess was smitten with the older prince, and they went onto swap letters over the years until they became engaged.

They married in November 1947, spent their honeymoon in Broadlands, Hampshire, and then moved to Malta early in their marriage, where Elizabeth was able to be a sailor's wife.

They had two children, Charles and Anne, before she suddenly became Queen upon the death of her father in February 1952.

Philip had to give up his burgeoning naval career to be at her side at engagements around the world, but devoted 70 years to supporting her.

Photograph of the wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968). Also pictured is Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George (1895-1952) and Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974). Dated 20th Century. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968), which Elizabeth and Philip both attended in 1934. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Read more: Everything we know about Prince Philip's funeral

He retired in August 2017, having carried out tens of thousands of engagements and tours, some with her and some solo.

Tributes have been paid from around the world after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. He died on 9 April at the age of 99.

His funeral, which will be dramatically scaled back to deal with the coronavirus restrictions in the UK at the moment, will be held on 17 April from 3pm, with a procession through Windsor Castle at 2.40pm.

The Queen, 94, is set to have to sit alone in the quire of St George's Chapel as she says goodbye to her husband of more than 73 years.

She will not be able to sit by anyone because no other members of her household are attending the main ceremony, and so social distancing will be in place.

Family members attending the ceremony will also have face masks on throughout.

The ceremony will be broadcast on BBC, ITV and on Yahoo.

Watch: Prince William and Prince Harry will not walk side-by-side at Prince Philip's funeral