Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip - a royal love story which began in Dartmouth

In 1939, a 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth stepped ashore at Dartmouth and it was over the next few days that she would spend time with the man who would one day become her prince.

The 18-year-old once Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was a young naval cadet at the time and he had been assigned the duty of entertaining the young princesses.

Photos of that time are held at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. Among them is one of Princess Elizabeth and Philip playing croquet.

The picture would have seemed insignificant at the time, but it shows the beginnings of the royal couple’s relationship happened in Devon.

“It can be seen as quite a sweet photograph of the two of them,” said Dr Jane Harrold, curator at the Britannia Royal Naval College.

“Meeting and getting to know each other properly really for the first time.”

It was by coincidence that Philip was at the college in 1939. He should have been at sea, but with war approaching his class just happened to be in Dartmouth.

“Even though we have regular royal visits at the college, it is extremely unusual to have the whole royal family there at once,“ Dr Jane added.

“King, Queen and two princesses so it's almost as if maybe fate had a slight hand in it.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip playing croquet when they first met. Credit: Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

However, the five-year age gap between the two was too great at the time and it was not until a few years later the couple grew closer.

Devon-based Royal Commentator Jennie Bond said young Philip was sought after by many young ladies.

She said: “The Queen thought he was drop-dead gorgeous quite frankly.

“He was tall, he was athletic, he was blonde.

“It was a relationship based absolutely on love. The Duke himself said that it had been a partnership.”

Princess Elizabeth and the duke on their honeymoon Credit: PA

The two got married in 1947 but it came with quite the caveat. Philip, set to become the Queen's consort, was forced to give up his promising naval career.

He was now destined for a life on public duty where he was expected to walk several paces behind his wife - but privately the Queen ensured they were equals.

“The Queen was incredibly wise as a woman that she allowed Prince Philip to wear the trousers at home,“ Jennie added.

“He could run the estates to allow him to be proud and to be the man of the household and I think that was terribly clever of her.”

The Duke remained by his wife’s side for decades to come. Despite few moments of public affection between the two, a touching moment took place in Taunton in 1987 when The Duke encouraged a young boy to give flowers to his wife.

Traditionally royal marriages were for strategic reasons. They were used to build alliances between countries but the prince and princess's was a love story.

To us he was Prince Philip, Prince Consort, The Duke of Edinburgh, but to the Queen he was a much-adored husband.

“I can only imagine the Queen is bereft,” Royal Commentator Jennie Bond said.

“She said he was and always had been her strength and stay. And now at her very advanced age to manage without him it’s going to be extremely tough for her.”

Read more: