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Queen Elizabeth II becomes first British monarch to celebrate 70th wedding anniversary

A new first-class stamp shows a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in London on their honeymoon in 1947. (British Royal Mail/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, celebrated 70 years of marriage on Monday, the longest union of any monarch in British history.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was one of many to jump on social media to congratulate the royal couple. “They have devoted their lives to the service of the UK and the Commonwealth — my best wishes to them both on this special occasion,” she tweeted.

Elizabeth was a 21-year-old princess when she married Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a 26-year-old Royal Navy officer, in an elaborate ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947. At the time, Britain was still reeling from the end of World War II.

Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously described the occasion as “a flash of color on the hard road we travel.”

See Prince William and Catherine out and about

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, left, stand on the dias during the annual Irish Guards’ St. Patrick’s Day parade at Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow, England. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The queen, 91, is the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. On their 50th wedding anniversary, the queen described Prince Philip as “someone who doesn't take easily to compliments, but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

Dickie Arbiter, the queen’s former press secretary, said that one of the secrets to their long marriage is that the queen and duke make each other laugh and enjoy each other’s company. “They have love, humor, togetherness, compassion, compatibility and conversation. They are never short of anything to say to each other,” he said.

The duke, who is famous for his off-the-cuff clangers, once joked that the secret to a long marriage was to “spend plenty of time apart and have different interests.”

The queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, having surpassed the record set by her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria. Prince Philip, 96, is Britain’s longest-serving consort. He recently retired from public life.

The palace released a number of photographs by the celebrity photographer Matt Holyoak to mark the couple's wedding anniversary. They were taken earlier this month in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.

The Royal Mail also issued new stamps to commemorate the anniversary.

On Monday afternoon, bells rang out from Westminster Abbey, the church where the couple were married. The tolling began at 1 p.m. and were expected to last 3 hours and 20 minutes.

But compared to other royal milestones — like the queen’s many 90th birthday celebrations or her Diamond Jubilee — this one was relatively quiet (except for those within earshot of the bells). Royal watchers said that the queen didn't want her subjects to make a fuss. The royal couple's close friends and family were expected to gather for a private celebration at Windsor Castle on Monday evening.