Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for so long (60 years) and of course has been in the public eye for even longer (she’s 86 years old) that it can be a bit disconcerting to encounter photographs of her as a bride, or a newlywed. After all, unlike the engaging young couple whose royal wedding in London sparked a media frenzy in the spring of 2011, Elizabeth has always appeared more distant, more removed, from the sort of everyday pleasures and pains that define the lives of mere commoners.
But in November 1947, when she wed Prince Philip (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark), Elizabeth allowed the world to glimpse, briefly, another side — a less severe and less purely ornamental side — of her life. In photographs made that day, Elizabeth looks like brides all over the world have looked, from time immemorial: a bit nervous, a bit self-conscious, a bit overwhelmed … and happy.
Here, on the 65th anniversary of that long-ago royal wedding, LIFE.com offers a series of photographs — including some that did not originally run in LIFE — made by magazine staffers like Nat Farbman and Frank Scherschel (pictured at left, on the day of the nuptials). In an article that ran in the Dec. 1, 1947, issue of LIFE, meanwhile, the magazine’s editors took pains to remind readers that, two years after the end of the Second World War, England and Europe — while on the mend from war’s ravages — were still, in some regards, reeling from the aftereffects of the conflict.
What’s also so clearly evident in the language of the piece (below) is the enduring respect the magazine’s editors had for what England had achieved when, for a good part of World War II, the island nation had, in essence, stood alone. The verbiage might be over-the-top — but the sentiment is straight from the heart.
In the ninth winter of Britain’s austerity the skies cleared for a brief moment last week. Shining through came a fleeting, nostalgic glimpse of an ancient glory and a little pang of hope for better days to come. The Princess — the heir to the British throne — was taking a husband, and some of the old pomp and pageantry sang out in the land.
[Almost] all of Europe’s vanishing royalty crowded into Westminster Abbey, wearing finery and jewelery which somehow had survived all disaster. It seemed that all of London turned out to see a drama which, if somewhat anachronistic, was nonetheless inspiring. The people crowded along Whitehall to see the procession…. At the Abbey they cheered the arrival of six kings, seven queens and numerous princes and princesses. Over loudspeakers they heard Princess Elizabeth say her vows. For hours they milled around the Palace hoping to see the newlyweds make an appearance on the balcony. Then, feeling somehow as happy as if it had been their own wedding day, they went home, with the quiet reassurance of goodness, tranquility and survival that the British throne means to Britain’s people.