BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 19 November, 1997, 16:42 GMT
Speech by The Duke of Edinburgh
It may have come as a bit of a surprise to your guests to find that it has fallen to me to thank you for your hospitality today and for your very kind words in proposing our health. The fact of the matter is that a marriage involves 2 partners and, since the Prime Minister is also kindly giving us lunch tomorrow, we thought it would be appropriate for us to share the pleasure of responding to this toast.

I am afraid, my Lord Mayor, that you lost the toss for this event. However, I suspect that precedence may also have had something to do with it. At all events, I can assure you that our thanks and appreciation are just as warm whichever of us expresses them.

When there is lots to do, time seems to fly. It appears to us, at least, that we have been fairly busy over the last 50 years and the time has simply flashed past. Until, that is, you start looking back and try and recall what things were like 50 years ago and you begin to realise how much has changed. The recent 50th anniversary of VJ day came as a reminder that the war in the Far East only came to an end late in 1945. I got back to this country from the Pacific in January 1946 and then in the autumn of 1947 we got married. It was a fairly drab world; the post-war recovery had hardly even begun and practically everything was still rationed. Everyone seemed to think that our wedding was a very happy occasion and brought a little colour back to life after the dreary war years. At any rate, we certainly thought so.

We were then fortunate to enjoy 5 happy years of fairly conventional married life. That included 2 years with a home of our own in Malta while I was with the Navy. This period came to an abrupt end when The Queen had the melancholy duty of succeeding her father after his premature death in 1952. She was 25 and I was 30 and we had 2 small children. Life changed dramatically in many ways, but it had much less effect on our married life than I anticipated. After an interval of 10 hectic years, we had 2 more children and were more or less settled into our new way of life.

Like all families, we went through the full range of the pleasures and tribulations of bringing up children. I am, naturally, somewhat biased, but I think our children have all done rather well under very demanding circumstances and I hope I can be forgiven for feeling proud of them. I am also encouraged to see what a good start the next generation is making.

We would both like to acknowledge that it was only through the kindness and consideration of so many people in all walks of life that we managed to get through those early daunting years of added responsibilities. Not least by all the Lord Mayors of London, whose encouragement and friendly support has done so much to ease the burdens of duty.

There are a number of positions in our society, which are greater than the individuals who happen to occupy them for the time being. The position of hereditary Head of State in a constitutional monarchy is just one of them. Prime Minister, Archbishop of Canterbury, Speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Mayor of London are other examples. These positions confer a status, or prestige, and also responsibilities above and beyond those which, as ordinary individuals, the holders might reasonably expect to bear. People who find themselves in such a position have to learn to accept certain constraints and to accommodate to that grey area of existence between official and what is left of private life. But they also discover that it gives them quite exceptional opportunities to serve the interests of their communities and the nation at large. In such circumstances much can be done by an individual, but I am sufficiently old-fashioned to believe that a great deal more can be achieved by a partnership in marriage. It has been a challenge for us, but by trial and experience, I believe we have achieved a sensible division of labour and a good balance between our individual and joint interests.

After 50 years experience, I find there is a great temptation to give advice. The trouble is that no two marriages are alike. However, I think 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.

My Lord Mayor, it is most generous of you to wish us well on the 50th anniversary of our wedding and we are most grateful to all your guests for their presence here today.

Links to more World stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more World stories