The Wedding of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth, in The New Yorker

A. J. Liebling’s column on the royal wedding captures a joyful moment during Britain’s postwar recovery.Photograph by Bert Hardy / Getty

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died on Friday, at the age of ninety-nine, a solemn moment in a tumultuous era in British royal history. Four years older than The New Yorker, the Prince made one of his first appearances in the magazine in 1947, a period when its pages were often occupied not only with the aftermath of the war but with the activities of aristocracy both foreign and domestic: the Astors, the Rockefellers, and, especially, the British Royal Family. The occasion for the article was Philip’s wedding to young Princess Elizabeth, and all its attendant media coverage, which A. J. Liebling reviewed under the rubric The Wayward Press. Liebling’s media column, which ran for several decades, was often as acidic as it was enthusiastic, and the royal-wedding roundup is a particular pleasure to revisit. Liebling’s report brims with details that somehow didn’t make it into “The Crown”: Noël Coward’s seating assignment during the ceremony; a bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visible behind the Duke’s head as he entered Westminster Abbey; and, for the newlyweds’ protection, the presence of a Scotland Yard agent, on a makeshift bed, in an attic above the room where they spent their wedding night. (Across the pond, Liebling’s employer, Harold Ross, would soon be invited to a dinner with the former King Edward VIII and his wife, Wallis Simpson, who turned out to be fans of The New Yorker’s coverage of his abdication.)

Liebling’s wedding column captures a rare joyful moment during Britain’s difficult postwar recovery, but the reporter still gets his zingers in. Correspondents offering tremulous coverage are “dealers in radiance”; Liebling cites a quotation, in the Post, of a “starry-eyed Cockney girl” who says, of the future Queen’s consort, “Gord, but ain’t ’e the ’andsome one.” (Liebling joked that he had pored over so many British reports that week that he was seeing spots—the result of “dropped ‘h’s.”) And for a final word in class-based commentary he turns to no less an authority than the Daily Worker, which pointedly noted, in a headline, “18 COUPLES WED QUIETLY AT CITY HALL, NON-ROYAL LOVERS UNITED IN SIMPLE RITES.”

Having run through press accounts of weddings both royal and common, Liebling ends the column by turning his gaze across the English Channel—where, according to the Herald Tribune, “the Count of Paris, the Pretender to the French throne,” had finally renounced his claims. He no longer believed, Liebling reports, that there was any kind of future in “the king business.”

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