Queen Elizabeth II once hid in plain sight to party on the streets of London

Despite being heir to the throne, a young Princess Elizabeth left the safety of the palace walls with her sister Princess Margaret to party incognito with the people.

Queen Elizabeth II once hid in plain sight to party on the streets of London
© Universal History Archive / Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II once hid in plain sight to party on the streets of London

8th May 1945, crowds of people flooded London streets to celebrate World War II's end; among them, unbeknown to the masses, were two Royal Princesses.

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A Princess at war

On 13th September 1940, five bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace. Instead of fleeing to the countryside, King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, stayed in London throughout The Blitz. However, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were evacuated.

According to The National WWII Museum, it is said that after the bombing, a young Princess Elizabeth stated:

I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye.

Throughout the war, the future Queen was keen to help where and when she could. While Princess Elizabeth was living at Windsor Castle, she partook in the government's 'Dig for Victory' campaign to combat food shortages.

In 1944, when Princess Elizabeth turned 18, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army. The heir to the throne was not given any special treatment, nor was the Princess given a rank. King George saw to that.

When the war ended on 8th May 1945, the Princess appeared no less than six times on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in her military uniform alongside her parents, King George and Queen Elizabeth, and her younger sister, Princess Margaret. But the young Princess wanted more.

Partying incognito

The Independentreports that Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, who was only 14 at the time, wanted to join in the VE day celebrations with the people. According to the publication, it was Princess Margaret who suggested the idea.

The two sisters managed to convince their parents to let them join in the festivities. Whether King George VI had any reservations, we shall never know, but in a journal entry, he wrote:

Poor darlings, they have never had any fun yet.

After dinner, they left the confines of the palace walls and blended into the masses. A group of Guard officers and their ladies-in-waiting accompanied the Princesses on their adventure outside the palace.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaretspent the night doing the Hokey Kokey or the Conga with the public. The Queen described it as being 'swept along by tides of happiness and relief.' They made their way to Buckingham Palace, where the princesses joined the crowds shouting for the King to make an appearance.

In 2006, Jean Woodroffe, one of Princess Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, told BBC Radio 4:

The extraordinary thing was that nobody seemed to take much notice.

During an interview with the BBC in 1985, Queen Elizabeth II recalled that she had donned her Auxiliary Transport Service uniform and pulled her cap 'well down' over her eyes as she tried to avoid being spotted. Of the night, the Queen said:

I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

Sources used:

- My London: 'Royal Family: The Queen's disguise she wore so could party on the streets of London without anyone knowing who she was'

- The Independent: 'The Queen: How Princess Elizabeth celebrated VE Day unnoticed among the crowds on the streets of London'

- The National WWII Museum: 'A Princess At War: Queen Elizabeth II During World War II'

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