Prince Philip's love story: Cobina Wright, the blue-eyed beauty, he was ‘desperate to marry’ before Queen Elizabeth
Did you know the woman Prince Philip was ‘desperate to marry’ was not the Queen? Many accounts say when he was just 13, he had a few flings before exchanging vows with the Queen in 1947
On the chilly afternoon of April 9, 2021, The Royal Family announced the heartbreaking news of Prince Philip's death. “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle...” the statement read.
Life — and love — does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does... Prince Philip's extraordinary life was full of secrets and here's turning the pages of history back to the time when he was still young. Did you know the woman Prince Philip was ‘desperate to marry’ was not the Queen? Many accounts believe that when he was just 13, he had a few flings before exchanging vows with the Queen in 1947.
Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life
Born in Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu on 10 June 1921, the longest-serving royal consort in British history was the only son and fifth and final child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenbergthe. During his school days at The Elms, an American school in Paris run by Donald MacJannet, he was lovingly known as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite.”
In the summer of 1938, Philip was staying with his aunt Aspasia, in Venice. A 2011 book ‘Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life’ by Philip Eade spells out his childhood mischiefs and how his own father was worried his son might get into “girl trouble” when he was only 17.
“Philip’s father, Andrea, had reminded Aspasia that the boy was studying for his special entrance exam to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and pleaded with her to ‘keep him out of girl trouble’. It was a challenge,” the book read.
Cobina Wright: The girl of Prince Philip's dreams
Prince Philip would often offer to drive girls home on the boat after lavish gatherings hosted by members of high Venetian society. “No need to keep the driver, Auntie Aspasia. I'll take over. The boat man's had a long day,” he would say. “One girl, Cobina Wright, began to stand out from the rest and Philip begged his aunt to be allowed to stay out in the boat a little longer,” Eade penned down in his book.
He continued: “Cobina Wright was a budding American actress whose pushy mother, also called Cobina, was among those who entertained Philip during his time in Venice.
“Cobina Wright Senior organized debutante parties in New York and was grooming her daughter for a film career capped by a spectacular marriage.”
On Life Magazine's cover, she was described as a debutante who “fought a draw with Brenda Frazier for the glamour girl championship of New York society.” In Eade's words, she was “tall, slim and blonde with huge blue eyes and a radiant smile...” Only two months younger than Philip, she was crowned Miss Manhattan and named ‘most attractive and talented New York girl of the 1939 season’. By 198, she was already under contract with 20th Century Fox while also modeling and singing in nightclubs.
Love story: Dining, dancing, and walking hand-in-hand
The two met in Venice in the year they both turned 17. When Prince Philip and Cobina Wright locked eyes, there was a strong mutual attraction. Wright once confessed that Philip's mother “shoved” her into his arms at a bar on their first meeting. They spent a week in England “dining, dancing, and walking London’s streets, hand in hand.” Eade wrote, “Over the next three weeks, Philip escorted Cobina around Venice, spending ‘passionate evenings in gondolas on the Grand Canal’ before they both returned to London.”
The attraction didn't fade away. “When mother and daughter left for America, he vowed to follow, and was said to have cried as he kissed the younger Cobina goodbye,” the piece continued. “Her friend, Gant Gaither, the Broadway producer, later maintained that Philip wrote her impassioned love letters and ‘desperately wanted to marry her, but [in the end] Cobina Jr just wasn’t all that interested’.”
Several insiders also speculated that she wasn't too keen to get involved with Philip as she didn't want to go out with someone chosen by her pushy mother.
How did the romance fizzle out?
Daughter of stockbroker William May Wright and singer, actress, and newspaper columnist Cobina Wright Sr, she ended up tying the knot with an American corporal, Palmer Beaudette. In a 1973 interview with American Town and Country magazine, Wright disclosed she kept photographs of the three loves of her life in her bedroom – and one of them was Philip. On September 1, 2011, she died at age 90 after battling alcoholism.
Philip sparked love with another woman named Osla Benning in late 1939. “Princess Elizabeth was still only 15, and while she was undoubtedly going to be a catch before long, Philip was free to play the field. Cobina Wright’s place was soon taken by Osla Benning, a beautiful Canadian-born debutante with ‘dark hair, alabaster white skin, an exquisite figure and a gentle loving nature’ according to her friend Sarah Norton,” Eade explained in his book.
“Uncle Dickie said to me, ‘I don’t think Philip’s got a girlfriend at the moment. I wish you could find a nice girl for him because he doesn’t know anyone.’ Ola didn’t have boyfriend at the time, so I said: ‘I know, I’ll get them together’.” His sense of humor drew her towards him and they bonded for quite a while before parting ways.
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II: A love for the ages
In 1943, love knocked on Philip's door again when he went to stay with his cousin David Milford Haven at Windsor Castle for Christmas. It was there that he met the 17-year-old Princess Elizabeth. The two had begun to exchange letters when she was 13. Recounting memories of those days, governess Marion Crawford said the royal became animated in a way “none of us had ever seen before...”
It was a “weekend of dinner parties, charades, films and dancing to the gramophone proved to be a turning point.” Their connection grew stronger and eventually, King George VI granted him permission to marry her after he fought in World War 2. Their engagement was delayed until she turned 21 and was announced to the public on July 10, 1947.
The two of them went on to have four children – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. The power of love letters kept the timeless romance going forever and their 73 years of marriage ended with his last breath. The pair have eight grandchildren, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn.
When they wed in front of 2,000 people at Westminster Abbey, King George VI said, “One day Lilibet will be queen and he will be consort. That’s much harder than being a king, but I think he’s the man for the job.” Keeping his word, Philip kneeled before her and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb” at the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
At the end of the night of her 50th wedding anniversary, the Queen fondly spoke of her husband with profound and uncharacteristic emotion: “He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years. I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”