Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip undertook a royal tour in 1953 following the monarch’s coronation. They spent six months travelling forty thousand miles around the world to visit twelve countries. It was a “stupendous undertaking that had never been attempted by any head of state,” said Kitty Kelley in her book The Royals. However, there was one thing during the trip that Queen Elizabeth proved to be bad at – and Prince Philip showed himself to be a useful asset.
The Queen is now well-used to meeting and greeting strangers but there was a time when she was not so adept at social interactions, according to Kelley.
“Highly disciplined, Elizabeth could stand for hours in the sun and ride a horse side-saddle for miles,” wrote Kelley.
“But interacting with people and having to make small talk with strangers for any extended period of time was a burden.”
The author explained this was due to her youth alone at Windsor Castle: “She was not accustomed to accommodating others and did not know how to be socially ingratiating.”
It was on this front that her husband Prince Philip proved invaluable as he was very different.
“[The Queen’s] gregarious husband enjoyed bantering with others and being flirtatious,” said Kelley.
According to reporter Gwen Robyns, who was part of the small press contingent accompanying the monarch on the 1953 tour, Philip “was truly marvellous” for his wife.
“Philip was perfect for her and she was blindingly in love with him,” Kelley quotes Robyns.
“She was so young and unsure of herself as Queen. Very, very self-conscious as a monarch. Painfully insecure. She did not know how to act or behave among so many people.
“But [Philip] was smooth and easy, more sophisticated. He’d jolly her into good humour, and warm her up for the crowds.
“She’s put on a grumpy face most of the time because she was overwhelmed, but he’d coax a smile out of her.”
Robyns added: “We could see he was truly marvellous for her. She brightened up around him… He really carried her on that trip.”
The reporter remembered a time in Australia when the Royals were shaking hands in unbearable heat. Elizabeth was scowling but Philip said “Cheer up, sausage. It is not so bad as all that.”
The Duke of Edinburgh was also “fiercely protective of her when her energy started flagging,” Robyns recalled.
“He would leap to her side and wave off photographers if he thought they were getting too close or might embarrass her. ‘Don’t jostle the Queen,’ he’d say.”
The Queen did have a sense of humour, however, as proven by a practical joke she once played on Prince Philip after he’d been away without her for a long period of time.