Why the Queen & Prince Philip are literally 1 in a million (and Google doesn’t even know the answer)…

Google has the answer to everything.  Well actually not quite everything, it seems…

Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at their Wedding in 1947

That’s because when I sat down to write this blog about the Queen and Prince Philip’s Platinum Wedding Anniversary in November this year, I thought it would be interesting to see how many couples actually celebrate 70 years of marriage.

And the more I dug around, the more I realised the reason why.  It’s incredibly rare.

So if Google can’t tell us, let’s see if we can come up with an answer.

Fundamental to the problem is that there is simply no central record of how long marriages last until one of the couple passes away.  But perhaps we can make some assumptions based on some of the statistics that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) do publish.

How likely are two people to both make it past their 90th Birthday?

In 1947 the median age for marriage was 23.7 for men and 20.5 for women[i], making Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten pretty typical of their generation, marrying aged 21 and 26.  It also means it’s fair to work on the basis that for nearly any couple celebrating their Platinum Wedding Anniversary, they are both going to be in their nineties.

So the chances for making it past the age of 90 in England and Wales is 0.8%[ii].  That means that the chances of two people BOTH making it is:

0.008 x 0.008 = 0.000064
0.0064% chance of two people both making it past their 90th birthday.

How many people were married in 1947?

Fortunately, it is much easier to uncover how many people married in 1947.  In fact 1947 is the very first year that the ONS not only holds data for the total number of marriages in England and Wales but also in which month they took place.[iii]

Certainly by choosing November, they were not following the trend.  In fact with fewer than 30,000 marriages that month, it was the third least popular month for weddings that year.

Overall, the young princess and her naval officer beau were one of 401,210 couples to tie the knot that year.  Statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland appear more difficult to track down but it would be reasonable to extrapolate the numbers based on the overall UK population split, which suggests a figure for the whole of the UK.

466,000 UK marriages in 1947.

Data is not easily available for 1947 but it can be found for English and Welsh marriages in 1950[iv].  According to the ONS, 8.6% of marriages at that time ended in divorce, so we should discount them out from our 466,000 UK marriages.

466,000 x 91.4% = 426,000 non-divorce marriages in 1947.

How many Platinum Wedding Anniversaries might we expect this year?

So we have now have two critical pieces of data.  The chances of two people making it past the age of 90 – the realistic milestone age to celebrate a Platinum Wedding Anniversary – and the number of marriages in 1947 that did not end in divorce.

Based on that we can multiply the two numbers together to give us a pretty reasonable estimate of the number of couples who will celebrate 70 years of marriage this year.

426,000 x 0.0064% = 27 Platinum Wedding Anniversaries

So, although there are no official statistics to back it up, it seems likely that only around 30 couples will join the Queen and Prince Philip in celebrating their Platinum Wedding Anniversary this year.  Or to put it another way – just 60 people in the UK will mark 70 years of marriage in 2017 – that’s 1 in a million.

That’s why for me, forget the Jubilees; forget the birthdays.  For the Queen and Prince Philip their Platinum Wedding Anniversary is the pinnacle of their long list of incredible milestones.  And we, the British people, must join them in marking this historic moment.

1. Hilary Morris on December 22, 2020 at 10:40 am

My remarkable mum and dad celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve 2020. My mum ‘celebrated’ her 90th birthday this year in August which was lower key than we would have wished due to Covid-19 restrictions. My dad was 92 in June.

I believe the secret to their marital longevity is their continued positive attitude, leading extremely active lives, being life long avid theatre and cinema goers, doing everything together, having shared interests whilst being self sufficient and totally supportive of each other.

My wish for 2021 is that they will have the opportunity to continue their wonderful lives doing what they most enjoy in 2021 and beyond, this generation are truly inspirational. I am fascinated to know how many couples will celebrate their Platinum anniversary in 2020. To me they truly are one in a million which I believe could be approximate statistic.

2. Paul and Phylis Rifkin on December 30, 2019 at 10:34 pm

We are married 71 years. as of Dec. 26 1948

3. Hilary Benoit on August 29, 2019 at 9:31 pm

My parents John and Barbara Hooper, Ledbury will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this Sunday (September 1st). They are still extremely active and young at heart – gardening, cooking, and totally independent. Definitely a great example to us all!

• Graham Milner on March 5, 2020 at 12:18 am

Hello Hilary,

Off topic, I know. From 1971-1973/4 I had a wonderful pen-friend called Hilary Hooper who lived in Ledbury. Sometimes I look back fondly and I wonder what became of her. Could it have been you?

4. DARRELL HAMLEY on July 20, 2019 at 6:15 pm

My wife and I were married on 21 May 1949 and celebrated our Platinum Wedding this year (2019). It was a bit touch and go as my beloved wife died 43 days later Nevertheless 70 wonderful loving years

5. Ian Willetts on September 13, 2017 at 8:20 am

My parents celebrated their 71st Wedding Anniversary (Platinum) on the 24th of August this year (2017). God Bless Them 🙂

6. Toni Barlex on September 12, 2017 at 4:44 pm

My bf’s grandparents just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

7. David Bragg on September 12, 2017 at 2:44 pm

For your records and where you may be able to get further information, The Queen herself sends out cards to people celebrating their 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries and further information may be available from that source. Personally my own mother and father celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on the 7th July 2015 having married in 1945. Unfortunately mum died at 93 just a few weeks from their 71st anniversary although Dad, now 94 is still very much alive and well.

• Lynn Fisher on June 5, 2019 at 9:08 pm

On June 15th 2019 we will be married for 72 years. We met a a farewell party for a mutual friend in Philadelphia, Pa. one month before my 16th birthday and Jack had turned 17 in June. He is now going to be 92 and I am 90. We lived in Philly until August 1989 and moved to a condo in Pembroke Pines Fl. called Century Village. Still in our own apartment still shopping and cooking all our meals. We have 3 sons the oldest Howard turned 69 today. We have 3 grandsons. 7 granddaughters, 5 great grand daughters and one great grandson we have never seen the youngest age 4,3 and 2. Hope to get to see them someday!

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