The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England should come as no huge shock when age is taken into account, but there can be no denying that the waves of grief felt most everywhere are very real.

Today, the UK wakes up to a world that will differ in all manner of ways to the one they woke up to yesterday. Queen Elizabeth was not merely a stoic bastion of strength and dignity, but the foundations on which modern Britain was built.

It really is nothing short of incredible that the Queen reigned for 70 proud years on the English throne. Yet, as they say, Father Time comes for us all, and her peaceful passing yesterday afternoon spells the end of an era.

In the coming days, much and more will be said and remembered about arguably the United Kingdom’s most influential, well-respected monarch, but with the wound dealt by her death still sore, we thought it only right to touch upon the aspect of her life that perhaps provided her with the most joy …

We’re talking, of course, about her union to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Philip himself passed only last year at the grand old age of 99.

His funeral, held on April 17, 2021, was watched by 13 million people in the U.K. Meanwhile, only 30 people were allowed to attend in person due to current COVID restrictions in the U.K. which meant the Queen was forced to sit alone.

His absence from her side was heartbreaking, as he was a man that had sacrificed his career to support her in her royal duties.

Born in Corfu in 1921, Prince Philip was the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. At the age of eight he was separated from his parents and four older sisters after his mother had a mental breakdown.

He never lived in the same house as his immediate family again, spending his childhood between boarding school and his mother’s family in England.

His life, however, will always be remembered for his marriage to Queen Elizabeth, and the long years of service he gave to his country.

Yet their marriage – wrought with the trials and tribulations that exist in any long-term union between two people – came surprisingly close to never happening at all.

According to reports, Queen Elizabeth’s family weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of her marrying Philip Mountbatten, then a young naval officer.

The pair are said to have first crossed paths when Elizabeth was just eight years old, when Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, married Elizabeth’s uncle, Prince George the Duke of Kent.

Hard as it may be to believe, at that point the idea of Elizabeth one day sitting the English throne wasn’t a given. Far from it, in fact.

Her uncle, Prince Edward, was first in the line of succession, and it was only when he abdicated that Elizabeth’s father ascended the throne, thus promising her a future she had perhaps never dared to consider.

Part of that future, of course, would see her wed to Prince Philip, but only after she had fought tooth-and-nail to be able to follow her heart and take him as her husband.

As per sources, Elizabeth and Philip first met at the aforementioned wedding, when Elizabeth was just eight.

It would be a few years before they crossed paths properly again. In 1939, Elizabeth visited a naval college where Philip was a cadet. Elizabeth, then 13, was smitten with the 18-year-old Philip, and he began writing to her.

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith told People that by the time Elizabeth had turned 18, she was sure that Philip was the love of her life.

“She fell in love at age 18 and she never looked at anyone else,” Smith said.

After the Second World War, when Elizabeth was 20, Philip asked King George for her hand in marriage. Yet though the King was fond of Philip and thought him intelligent with a good sense of humor, he and his wife still had concerns.

Philip was a Greek-born prince, but even so lacked the necessary titles and esteem to be considered a perfect match for the future Queen of England.

“Some were very concerned,” Sir Edward Ford told People. “The line was slightly tenuous at that point. So, it was only natural that the older generation — friends of the King like Lord Salisbury — were concerned that who the Queen was with was totally and utterly suitable. So they were sniffing around to see what he was like.”

The King and Queen believed their daughter to be too young at the time and so asked Philip to wait until after Elizabeth turned 21 to make a formal announcement.

That announcement would eventually be made in July, 1947.

A reporter for The Guardian newspaper at the time wrote: “It is clearly a marriage of choice, not of arrangement[…]There have been many royal engagements in the past, but it would be hard to find a precise parallel for that of an Heiress Presumptive and still more for her choice as partner of one who is, technically at least, a British commoner.”

Their wedding took place on November 20, 1947. 2,000 guests were in attendance, while people from all corners of the Earth listened to the broadcast of the ceremony via radio.

“One of Elizabeth’s greatest achievements is being allowed to marry the love of her life,” said Suzanne Mackie, an executive producer for The Crown TV series.

“Like any marriage, it would undertake endless recalibration and navigation and re-negotiation.”

Then, in 1953, Elizabeth was crowned after the passing of her father. She was just 26 years old at the time, with the weight of an empire on her shoulders. Needless to say, the burden was unthinkably huge, made all the heavier by the fact that her and Philip had expected it to be many more years before she was made Queen.

Yet despite all the hardships and uncertainties, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip would go on to become paragons of splendor and inspiration during the course of their lives.

On their 50th anniversary, Philip said: “The main lesson that we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage. It may not be quite so important when things are going well, but it is absolutely vital when the going gets difficult.

“You can take it from me that the queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”

Indeed, and she had a great many more qualities to boot. Both of them will be sorely missed, but always admired for the services they rendered to the people and the love they had for each other.