The love story of Queen Elizabeth II in Malta – Most beautiful years of the princess?
updated on 8. November 2023
As a Royal Navy officer, Prince Philip was stationed in Malta. From November 1949 to 1951, Queen Elizabeth II, back then Princess Elizabeth and Duchess of Edinburgh, resided at Villa Guardamangia in Pietà, Malta. These days were filled with endless picnics, balls, dances, sunbathing, and water-skiing for the princess. It was a fairytale life on the sunny Mediterranean island. The royal couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Malta in 2007.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Journey to Malta?
The royal couple lived in close proximity to the Maltese capital from 1949 to 1951. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, was stationed as a naval officer on HMS Magpie. Malta, during World War II, was a crucial strategic base for the Allies against the Axis powers, including Nazi Germany. Prince Philip’s three sisters had ties to high-ranking German Wehrmacht officers and nobles. On September 2, 1950, at 29, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, assumed the captainship of HMS Magpie, anchored at the Three Cities in Senglea (towns and sights in Malta).
How did Princess Elizabeth become the Heir to the Throne, and Not Edward VIII, her Uncle?
King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936. before his official coronation. He married Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and they went into exile in France. This unexpected turn of events led to Prince Albert becoming King George VI. The “insignificant” ten-year-old Princess Elizabeth, older than her sister Margaret, became the heir to the throne when her father assumed kingship.
After King George V’s death, Edward VIII ascended to the throne as the King of Great Britain, Ireland, the Colonies, and Emperor of India on January 20, 1936. As the British king, he was also the head of the Church of England, which forbade divorcees from remarrying while their former spouses were still alive. Wallis Simpson, preparing for her second divorce, was opposed by the UK government and many colonies for political and moral reasons. Moreover, police investigations revealed her affair with car dealer Guy Trundle, and the FBI was investigating other potential lovers.
Despite the government’s disapproval, Edward declared his love for Wallis Simpson and his intention to marry her. However, the opposition from Commonwealth governments to Simpson as the king’s consort was overwhelming. King Edward VIII abdicated the throne 11 months after his ascension on December 10, 1936. His younger brother became King George VI and Edward VIII was made Royal Highness, Duke of Windsor, the following day.
As Wallis Simpson was deemed unsuitable to be a King’s consort by the majority of the King’s advisors and the Church, no legal avenues for the marriage were presented to the public. The marriage ended with Edward’s death on May 28, 1972.
On the other hand, when King Charles, himself divorced Princess Diana, and married divorcee Camilla Parker-Bowles, he wasn’t a king. Additionally, due to their advanced age, no further heirs to the throne were expected.
Princess Elizabeth’s 24th Birthday Celebration in Malta
The couple’s sojourn on the island was one of the few chances they got to lead a somewhat normal life. The Queen has only ever referred to Villa Guardamangia, Malta, as home outside the United Kingdom. It’s often said to have been one of the happiest periods of the princess’s life. She enjoyed a relaxed and free lifestyle, which included:
- Navy balls and samba dances at Hotel Phoenicia
- Tea parties for the officers’ wives
- Driving a car
- parties with friends
- shopping and going to the hairdresser
- and many more…
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary became friends with the wives of other officers. As quoted in The Telegraph, the butler John Dean, who served Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten in Malta, confirmed this. On her 60th wedding anniversary in Malta, the Queen mentioned that her 24th birthday was celebrated in Malta on April 21, 1950. This is significant as the Queen usually postponed her birthday parade in Britain to the warmer summer months, a tradition that has been in place for nearly 300 years since King George II found it too cold to celebrate his birthday on November 9.
Christmas 1949 in Malta with Princess Elizabeth
For the Christmas holidays in her second year of marriage, Princess Elizabeth travelled by train and ship to Malta. Prince Charles celebrated his second Christmas with his grandparents, King George VI and the Queen Mother. (Source: Dr. Piers Brendon, Royal Historian)
After Princess Anne’s birth in August 1950, she and her sister Princess Margaret returned to Malta for the winter months. This was to be her last sunny winter, as her father, King George VI, fell severely ill in 1951 and passed away on February 6, 1952. Lady Pamela’s mother, Lady Mountbatten, described Elizabeth’s return as akin to caging a bird in a very small cage. Lady Pamela Hicks penned this in her memoir, Daughter of Empire.
Did Princess Elizabeth Work in Malta?
It is believed that Elizabeth worked for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Families Association (SSAFA) at the Auberge de Castile. Upon becoming Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Elizabeth became the Patron of SSAFA, a charity of the Royal Armed Forces, in 1952. This marked her second “civilian” job as a member of the royal family. During World War II, she trained as a mechanic with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and worked honorably with them in 1945. Unique about Queen Elizabeth is that she was not only part of a Royal Scout troop and Sea Rangers (Sea Scouts) but also the first member of the royal family to serve full-time in the military. Upon coronation, Princess Elizabeth became the Queen of Malta and head of the Commonwealth of Nations, as Malta was part of the British Commonwealth of Nations until 1964.
Malta was part of the British Commonwealth of Nations until 1964. Princess Elizabeth thus became the Queen of Malta and head of the Commonwealth of Nations upon coronation.
Was Malta Princess Elizabeth’s First Marital Residence?
After World War II, Prince Philip was stationed with the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet in Malta. Princess Elizabeth visited her husband for only a few weeks to a maximum of four months during her visits to Malta. In total, she lived in Malta four times during the two years. Prince Charles was born in 1948, and a few years later, Princess Anne. Her father, King George VI, reigned. Villa Guardamangia in Pietà is considered the first joint marital residence. The couple briefly lived at San Anton Palace in Attard, the official residence of the British governor of Malta, in the first weeks. Since the departure of the British, San Anton Palace (Maltese: Palazz ta’ San Anton) has been the residence of the President of the Republic of Malta. Prince Charles was not seen in Malta during his first five years.
How Big is Villa Guardamangia?
According to publicly available data, the palazzo-style Villa Guardamangia has a total area of 1,560 sqm. The garden with a fountain has an area of 930 SQL. This leaves for:
- Living room
- Dining room
- Six bedrooms
- Three bathrooms
- Two garages
- Air raid shelter
630 SQL on two floors with a sea view.
Did Princess Elizabeth Have Employees at Villa Guardamangia?
There are no publicly available sources on the number and activities of the employees. One of the first employees was their personal driver and handyman, Chief Petty Officer Herbert H. Hicks. A reader of this page informed us that her grandmother worked as a cook for Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Other employees included Lady-in-waiting Alice Egerton, her detective, Inspector Alec Usher, her valet Pearce, her maid and former nanny Margaret “Bobo” MacDonald, and Prince Philip’s valet John Dean.
What is the history of Villa Guardamangia?
The building was one of the first buildings constructed outside the fortification walls of a fort or Valletta after the victory against the Ottomans. The property is located near St. Luke’s Hospital, built by a Spanish knight. A priest lived there until about 1814 before the property and its 900-square-metre garden passed to the family of Sir Augustus Bartolo. He gave the farmhouse the name Casa Medina. How Lord Louis Mountbatten came to own Casa Medina when or if it was sold, is disputed. Times of Malta writes that Casa Medina was bought by Lord Mountbatten as early as 1929 and owned until the 1950s. Other sources think that the publisher and politician Joseph Schembri bought the Villa Guardamangia in the 1940. Then Joseph Schembri rented the villa to Lord Louis Mountbatten until 1954. Everyone agrees: his nephew Prince Philip became Lord Mounbatten’s tenant for two years, whether as his subtenant or main tenant.
Can Villa Guardamangia in Pietà Be Visited?
Unfortunately, Villa Guardamangia received little attention from the Maltese government for decades. In general, Malta’s government has placed other priorities and given little importance to cultural heritage.
The Commonwealth Summit 2015 Brings Movement for Cultural Heritage
For the 2015 Commonwealth Summit, the theme of Villa Guardamangia was called The Telegraph to the memory of the British and Maltese. At the end of 2019, the government bought the villa from co-owner and resident Marika Schembri and her siblings (source The Telegraph). She asked for circa €6 million through an estate agent, according to press reports. How much the state of Malta paid is not known. Probably less. Otherwise, the Maltese government would have bought it earlier.
Queen Elizabeth Is Not Allowed to Visit Villa Guardamangia
Thus, on the 60th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 2007, there was a scandal. The owners’ association around Marika Schembri refused to allow the Queen to visit Villa Guardamangia for the diamond wedding. The owners certainly had good reasons for this. Since about 2020, Villa Guardamangia can be visited, possibly not at any time. In 2021 and also in 2022, some guided tours and at least one open day took place. The person in charge is Heritage Malta’s Chief Operations Officer, Kenneth Gambin.
What is the Condition of Villa Guardamangia?
The condition of Villa Guardamangia after Marika Schembri moved out with her siblings is visible in the gallery. The brickwork is crumbling, the paint on the overpainted royal wallpaper is peeling, the shutters are falling apart, the iron fittings are rusting, and weeds are overgrowing the garden. This is how someone leaves a house when the new owner is supposed to be annoyed. The government’s plan is to reconstruct and renovate the villa by 2027. In 2022, there is not much to be seen. The European TV station RTL wrote in 2020: Queen Villa is rotting away in Malta. A commission of experts estimates the costs of the “Villa Guardamangia Museum” at up to €10 million. Villa Guardamangia has the potential to be a major tourist attraction.
The owners did not seem interested in caring for their multi-million euro treasure and Maltese cultural assets. There was a suspicion that the owners’ association deliberately let the house fall into disrepair so that it could be sold most biddable to a developer for the construction of luxury apartments. Source: The Telegraph
What Should Villa Guardamangia Look Like After Restoration?
An exhibition is planned for the first floor of Villa Guardamangia. It will show the centuries-long relationship between Malta and Britain, as well as the life of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Malta. The first floor of the museum will be historically reconstructed.
What Traces Did Queen Elizabeth II Leave in Malta?
Queen Elizabeth visited Malta frequently. In 1967, she met with President Anthony Mamo and attended a ceremony to dedicate a monument to British Admiral Sir Alexander Ball. In 2007, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Malta. A great honour for Malta. They wanted to visit their (decayed) residence. As of 2022, the villa looks like it did after the Axis bombing raids around Germany. The owners’ association around Marika Schembri refused the request for a visit. For some people, one can only be ashamed. In 2015, Queen Elizabeth came to Malta for her last Commonwealth.
At Christmas 2015, Queen Elizabeth II remembered Malta in her Christmas message:
»In 1949, I spent Christmas in Malta as a newly-married naval wife. We have returned to that island over the years, including last month for a meeting of Commonwealth leaders, and this year I met another group of leaders: The Queen’s Young Leaders, an inspirational group, each of them a symbol of hope in their own Commonwealth communities.«
A memorial plaque in Valletta for the Queen Elizabeth
On the bridge in front of City Gate there is a commemorative plaque in honor of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II. She last visited Malta in November 2015. The plaque shows the stops along the way that Elizabeth II passed through Valletta in 2015.
Fancy a quiz on Queen Elizabeth in Malta?
FAQs - Do you have questions about the Queen's stay in Malta? We give you the answers!
Prince Philip and Princess Elisabeth first lived in San Anton Palace. Later they moved to Casa Guardamangia (Villa Guardamangia, previously Casa Medina). On an area of 1,560 square meters is the large town house in Pietà. The building, built in the Baroque style in the 18th century, was inhabited by a priest after a Spanish Knight of Malta.
The villa Guardamangia with harbour and sea views was rented by Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten. During Prince Philip’s stationing on HMS Magpie, the married couple were allowed to live there. Rumour has it:
- Lord Mountbatten introduced the couple in 1939.
- Princess Elisabeth was immediately in love.
- The couple did not find each other until 1946.
Their common great-great-grandmother is Queen Victoria, and was raised by the Danish King Christian IX.
Malta was and is an independent, sovereign state. In 2004, Malta joined the EU. During the British occupation, Malta was considered a constitutional monarchy. Her official title: Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
The Queen’s power was limited by the Maltese Constitution. During the occupation, Queen Elizabeth’s constitutional duties in Malta were mostly delegated to the Governor General. With the establishment of the Republic of Malta, the royal title for Malta ceased to exist.
The Queen visited Malta in 1954, 1967 and 1992. On 19 May 1992, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, together with President and former Captain of the Royal Malta Artillery Vincent Tabone, inaugurated the Malta Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta. She celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary with Prince Phillip in Malta in 2007. Her last Commonwealth visit took place in Valletta in 2015. With nine visits, Malta is one of the countries most visited by the Princess and Queen. Canada was also part of the Kingdom, topping the list of 120 countries with around 17 visits. The USA, Italy, and Germany followed with five visits.
Prince Charles was indeed born in 1948, perhaps even conceived in Malta. However, it did not seem common to fly around the world with a baby during that time. Nothing has been passed down that Prince Charles lived with his parents at Villa Guardamangia in Malta during the period until 1951. Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne visited. The Royal Family, escorted by the Royal Navy, arrived in Grand Harbour on the Royal Yacht Britannia. King George VI died on February 6, 1952, at the age of 56.
Besides King Charles and Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Air Miles Andy was the Queen’s favourite son for a long time. Due to his many escapades, Prince Andrew relinquished his royal duties in 2019. With the indictment in an abuse scandal against Prince Andrew, as the boyfriend of multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein and publisher’s daughter Ghislaine Maxwell, he lost all military and royal titles.
Born on 10 March 1964, Prince Edward was for many years the unsuccessful head of a manufacturing company. The Earl of Wessex is married to Sophie Rhys-Jones, who spilt secrets about the royal family and British politicians to a fake sheikh (Sophiegate). It is not surprising that then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Secretary of State Kim Howells said: “The royals are all a bit mad.” (British royal family as a bit bonkers).
Prince Edward performs royal duties with charities in the fields of youth, arts and sport, for example as Patron of the British Paralympic Association.
Builder was a Spanish knight of the Order of Malta after the victory over the Ottomans. The former farmhouse belonged to a priest until around 1814. In the early 1900s, Sir Augusto Bartolo rebuilt the city villa in its present form. The palazzo-style villa was named Casa Medina. In 1929, Lord Louis Mountbatten rented or bought Casa Medina, which had views of the sea as well as the racecourse and golf course. Other sources name the publisher and politician Joseph Schembri as the owner of Villa Guardamangia, and Lord Louis Mountbatten as a long-time tenant. After the renovation and associated return from the first-class hotel Phoenicia in Floriana, the property was renamed Villa Guardamangia. Before its sale to the government in 2019, Villa Guardamangia had belonged to the Ġużè and Marika Schembri family.
The Villa Guardamangia was bought from the siblings around Marika Schembri by Malta’s government in October 2019. The Government of Malta plans to convert it into a museum.
The Government of Malta declared Villa Guardamangia a national heritage site. Due to its architectural, cultural and historical value, it is classified as a category 2 (grading of the property). Grade 2 means: A building has historical and architectural value. Slight or moderate alteration of the building is possible.
If you want to avoid the protection of monuments, you apply to the building authority for legalization applications for more extensive alterations.
In 1949 Princess Elisabeth spent Christmas in Malta. On April 21, 1950, Elizabeth Alexandra Maria celebrated her 24th birthday in Malta. The diamond wedding of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth also took place in Malta in 2007.
Elizabeth Alexandra Maria and her sister Margaret were the daughters of Elizabeth, called Queen Mum and Prince Albert (Bertie). They were the “us Four”. Prince Albert was the second-born son of King George V. His elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated before the coronation. So Elizabeth’s father Albert became the King of the UK as George VI. He died a few years after World War 2 at the age of 56. Queen Mum died at the age of 101 on 30 March 2002.
Prince Philip affectionately called his Queen Elizabeth Cabbage in her old age.
In the British monarchy, a king can make his wife queen. A queen, however, cannot make her prince king. Then he would be above the queen in rank. That is why Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark knew that he would become his wife’s subject after the death of King George VI. He renounced the titles Prince of Greece and Denmark before the wedding, and was made a prince by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.
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