A memoir of the Queen in her early years on the throne

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The younger Princess Elizabeth, waving, with the royal household on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the coronation of her father King George VI in 1937 © Getty ImagesAt Sandringham in 1937, as assistant non-public secretary to King George VI, I will need to have seen Princess Elizabeth continuously, however my solely recollection is of a really pleasant woman, calling me fairly naturally by my Christian identify, and keenly within the taking pictures and the out of doors life typically. Through the conflict years she and her sister Margaret have been housed in Windsor Fortress. I used to be continuously there; the presence of the 2 princesses was at all times a reduction in what in any other case might need been a sombre meal, and I at all times tried to sit down subsequent to at least one or different of them. By that point Princess Elizabeth had turn out to be nearly painfully shy, blushing if spoken to all of a sudden, and missing all of the superficial social items with which Margaret was endowed.

In all my life I can recall no extra transferring incident than her entry into the crowded Throne Room at St James’s Palace

It was not till the King’s go to to South Africa, from February to April 1947, that I acquired to know Princess Elizabeth in any respect effectively. On the voyage aboard HMS Vanguard and all through the tour, I used to be repeatedly in her firm. It has at all times been my perception that in these weeks she grew from girlhood to womanhood. The change was very marked. She misplaced her crippling shyness and was quickly in a position to tackle any of the South African notabilities, from [Jan] Smuts downwards, who is perhaps sitting subsequent to her at meals. Her complete perspective to life appeared to broaden and deepen. I’ve in my thoughts three snapshots of her at the moment. The primary, once we have been climbing the hill at Matopos, the going was very tough, and Queen Elizabeth discovered her personal sneakers unsuitable. The Princess took off her personal sneakers and insisted on her mom carrying them, whereas she herself went on in her stockinged ft. The second was at varied capabilities at which the Queen, regardless of repeated reminders, refused to depart and insisted on holding the King and all people else hanging about whereas she talked to one and all. Princess Elizabeth would get behind her mom and poke on her Achilles tendon with the purpose of her parasol. This manoeuvre was at all times profitable, to the nice reduction of all of us.On a tour of South Africa in 1947: ‘It has at all times been my perception that in these weeks she grew from girlhood to womanhood’ © Popperfoto/Getty Pictures

Strolling in stockinged ft throughout the 1947 South Africa tour, having given her sneakers to her mom Queen Elizabeth, who had discovered her personal footwear unsuitable © Popperfoto/Getty Pictures

. . . and broadcasting from Cape City on her twenty first birthday that 12 months © Popperfoto/Getty Pictures

The third snapshot is in connection together with her coming-of-age broadcast, the preparation of which was my job. I acquired Dermot Morrah, the Occasions correspondent hooked up to our occasion, to organize a draft — and an excellent one it was. However I gave it to the princess with some nervousness. The next day we met within the hall of the royal prepare as we have been mustering for luncheon. I requested her how she preferred the draft. “I learn it straight via,” she mentioned, “and it made me cry.” “That’s simply what it would do to tens of millions of individuals everywhere in the world,” I answered. And, after all, that’s simply what it did do. On the time of the King’s loss of life, in February 1952, she was in Kenya. She returned as Queen, and from the second she stepped out of the aeroplane which introduced her residence she assumed the tasks of her new place with a peaceful dignity that stuffed us all with admiration. In all my life I can recall no extra transferring incident than her entry into the crowded Throne Room at St James’s Palace for the Accession Privy Council. There have been, I suppose, over 100 of us Privy Counsellors assembled; there was not one who was not stirred to the purpose of tears by that slim determine in black transferring quietly to the throne, and by the sound of her unfaltering musical voice as she learn the message to us.

Elizabeth, now Queen, returns from Kenya following the loss of life of her father King George VI in 1952 © Alpha Press

With Winston Churchill in 1950: ‘He was closely in love together with her’ © Gamma-Keystone/Getty Pictures

Later that day she requested me to function her non-public secretary. This I promised to do, solely stipulating that, after her coronation, I needs to be allowed to retire. For the subsequent 22 months I noticed her often, nearly each day. Her instant grasp of the routine enterprise of kingship was exceptional; she by no means appeared to wish a proof on any level. Time after time I might undergo her papers on which a number of selections have been attainable. She would look out of the window for half a minute after which say, “The second [or third] suggestion is the best reply” — and he or she was invariably proper. She had an intuitive grasp of the issues of presidency, and certainly of life typically, that I suppose had descended to her from Queen Victoria. But she by no means overlooked the human aspect, or the lighter aspect of labor. To serve her was, in truth, nice enjoyable.


Each Tuesday night at six o’clock, Winston Churchill, her prime minister, would have an viewers. She would obtain him within the ’44 Room at Buckingham Palace, whereas I, having proven him in, sat exterior. What they talked about, I had no concept, however I normally heard peals of laughter coming via the door. Winston was closely in love together with her, and customarily got here out with tears working down his cheeks. On one event he mentioned to me in his schoolboy French: “She is en grande beauté ce soir.” Then he and I might sit collectively ingesting our whisky-and-sodas — he together with his cigar — and he would inform me any matter he had raised together with her which he thought I ought to know.Her relations with different ministers have been at all times straightforward. I by no means noticed any signal of her having discovered an viewers, ministerial or in any other case, a bother. To her secretarial workers, she was a really perfect chief. Her father habitually suffered from violent storms of mood — a trait that was in all probability hereditary. I by no means knew the Queen to be even mildly cross or — outwardly at any price — ruffled by any contretemps or piece of unhealthy information. Her serenity was fixed, her knowledge faultless. On the entire, I contemplate her probably the most exceptional girl I’ve ever met.

Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles: ‘To serve her was, in truth, nice enjoyable’

This memoir was written by Sir Alan Lascelles in 1960. It has been edited by Duff Hart-Davis, who edited the three volumes of printed Letters & Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles.Copyright © Simon Renton & Tom Chandos (trustees) 2022Find out about our newest tales first — observe @ftweekend on Twitter

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