ENTERTAINMENT

Alathea Fitzalan Howard, the Queen's closest friend, on the war effort


Towards the end of the war, young Elizabeth enjoys a newfound independence in the ATS.

Romance is in the air too as the future queen dances in her room with a photo of Philip.

And as Alathea Fitzalan Howard reveals in this last excerpt from her youth diaries, the princess, with whom she once liked to play childish games, is growing into a public figure who would love the world too.

1944: Thursday July 20th

Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park

Went for a walk with the Princesses and Crawfie (Governess Marion Crawford) – P.E. (18 years old) was quite moody today, quiet and mostly walked a few steps away from himself.

She is in this way like the king, v. Unlike P.M. (15 years old) who jumps from side to side with whom she walks, catches her hands or slides her arm through hers, chatting and telling the latest jokes all the time.

Princess Elizabeth in her Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform in front of an Army ambulance during World War II

Thursday July 27th

Crawfie was with (the Princesses) and we all drove to Maidenhead on the gun brakes. We got into our boats, two small electric canoes, at the Boat Club and went up the river to Cliveden, where we landed and took a grassy path hidden by bushes from the river for tea.

It was extraordinary how no one recognized the princesses, even though they often looked them full in the face and very close, especially the castles, and obviously enjoyed the rare experience of going unnoticed.

When I came back I was sitting at P.M. at the end of the boat – we were all pretty rude and roared with laughter at the other people we saw. Sometimes we would throw ropes in the other boat and pull each other together.

We returned to the Boat Club and had a delicious dinner, although this time the princesses were known and everyone got up.

Wednesday 23rd August

At 1 p.m. we heard of the liberation of Paris, which was driving us wild with excitement

Tuesday, August 29th

Nada (Muir, a friend) thinks it's a shame P.E. is not encouraged to read more sophisticated books and that all their conversations should be about the dogs and the latest radio joke.

I agree, but as much as I love them, they are in no way an intellectual family.

Thursday October 26th

Drawing (lessons with Princess Margaret at Windsor Castle) began again. SPORTS. said she is sorry she never answered my letter but it was one of the things that she was very bad at!

Friday October 27th

We had a rocket at 6:30 a.m. that shook the whole house.

Tuesday November 21

Went to the classroom where the princesses were with Crawfie. The rest of the group then arrived, the Philipps (Sir Jackie Philipps was in command of the Castle Company) and several grenadiers – 16 in total.

After (tea) we played games in the Red Salon. We've also played charades where my side, including PM, did an exact replica of the others' scenes in just another word – we thought ours was better – but they didn't appreciate it and when we did for the final scene got in we did found them all hidden behind the curtains to repay us!

Friday November 24th

My 21st birthday. After breakfast, I opened all of my presents. A lamp came from the princesses in light green and pink that I love. Mom arrived – she criticized a lot of my gifts.

The princesses brought a present from the queen – a beautiful brooch made of light blue enamel and diamonds with E.R. in diamonds and a crown over it. It's in a pink leather pouch, also marked E.R., and there was a note from the Queen. No words can describe how excited I am.

Saturday December 2nd

Taxi driving (from Claridge's Hotel in London) to Charles Street (for) some sort of cocktail party (which) continued as a dance upstairs to a radiograph. Over 60 people and many men.

SPORTS. was there, with the new waiting lady, Mary Palmer. To my surprise, I found her the most attractive, if not pretty at all.

Her husband was there and looked very boring, fat and unattractive, but as Mummy says, it's often those people who turn out best.

SPORTS. wore a bright red crepe dress – the color matched her, although the shape was ugly and her shoes were terrible.

Saturday 23rd December

Went to pantomime in the castle at 2:30 a.m. Old mother's red riding boots. The princesses were both girls this time and they sang and acted excellently.

Alathea Fitzalan Howard. I went to London for a cocktail party. SPORTS. was there, looked very nice in navy blue, and spent most of the time talking to the elderly but other than that she said she enjoyed it

Alathea Fitzalan Howard. I went to London for a cocktail party. SPORTS. was there, looked really nice in navy blue, and spent most of the time talking to the elderly but other than that she said she enjoyed it

(1945: Saturday February 3rd

Annabel (daughter of Sir Cecil Newman) met me in Royston (Hertfordshire). After dinner came three Americans whom A knows in her canteen.

We talked and went to the dining room at regular intervals to drink sherry – they are extraordinary: you don't want to spend an ordinary evening in the presence of older people, for example, playing cards, but like hanging around a girl with your arms I talk totally and never know when to go

One of them, Dreiling, carried me into the parlor and we sat on the sofa – he held my hand, then shuffled his arms and finally kissed me, which he did for about five minutes until the others came in.

This was my first experience of being kissed and I honestly found it repulsive.

They went first around 12 and then how A and I laughed!

Thursday February 15th

P.M. told me that Prince Philip P.E. a photo of himself at Christmas and (P.E.) danced with it through the room with joy! She then said, "I wonder who is going to marry Lilibet?"

Prince Philip appears to be considering the option and P.E. I would appreciate it, I'm sure of that.

Monday March 5th

SPORTS. has received a commission in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and is attending a driving course. It is undoubtedly a good gesture for the final months of the war.

Wednesday March 7th

I put on my blue velvet dress and took the bus to the castle (for a dance over dinner).

Everyone had to go to the Red Salon in small groups because the Duchess of Kent doesn't like meeting many strangers at the same time. We shook hands with her and the princesses and drank and talked before going on the treasure hunt.

There were a total of 24 people in attendance – the ladies (including), Mrs. Townsend (wife of Equerry Peter Townsend, with whom Princess Margaret later had a romance), whom I don't particularly care about (she is a nondescript little thing) – and Crawfie.

I only knew a few of the men – mostly grenadiers. We played lumps, then sardines. Even those who don't like to gamble – and I know there are many – must feel struck by the princesses' natural gaiety and their unbridled enjoyment of their own party.

Thursday March 8th

Both princesses were at the dentist's in London, so Crawfie and I took the dogs for a walk and then had tea in their living room.

We had long discussions about everything and everyone. She said she regretted P.E. had no taste at all, but she wanted them to be so perfect that she was prone to being disappointed. She told me that P.E. Soon, Camberley is going to a class every day for three weeks. They think the experience will do them good.

Thursday March 15th

SPORTS. was wearing her ATS combat dress, which is made up of pants, and I thought she was terrible.

She goes everywhere now, even halfway to London – I really can't understand why they allow her to.

She had her hair shortened which doesn't suit her as it widens her face so much.

Wednesday March 28th

Jackie (Philipps) also disapproves of P.E. join the ATS and crawl under cars.

Monday April 9th

We all went to Coppins (home of the Kents). There were a total of 30 people, including the entire Luxembourg royal family. The girls are all very shy and calm and terribly stupid, but nice.

We started with games and then went upstairs to tidy up for dinner. We ate curried eggs and lobster, chicken in aspic and salad, as well as chocolate soufflé, orange salad and pastry cornet filled with real cream, and drank champagne and coffee. We danced the rest of the evening, except for a pretty amusing game or two.

P.M. told me that Prince Philip P.E. a photo of himself at Christmas and (P.E.) danced with it through the room with joy! She then said, "I wonder who is going to marry Lilibet?" Pictured is a rare picture of Prince Philip of Greece at Gordonstoun Public School in Scotland

P.M. told me that Prince Philip P.E. a photo of himself at Christmas and (P.E.) danced with it through the room with joy! She then said, "I wonder who is going to marry Lilibet?" Pictured is a rare picture of Prince Philip of Greece at Gordonstoun Public School in Scotland

Friday April 20th

Tomorrow P.E. Birthday – her nineteenth.

Wednesday May 2nd

Hitler is pronounced dead, although the details are all so mythical that one can believe he died some time ago, or that he is still alive and hidden somewhere.

Monday May 7th

Went into the garden and lay down on a rug and slept. Suddenly I was woken up by Moira (a local Windsor girl) who told me the war was over! We all rushed to the radio.

Tuesday, May 8th

VICTORY DAY IN EUROPE.

The big day was breaking and yet it seemed like every other! Four grenadier officers came by – Moira knew one of them.

(We) marched down Eton High Street – it was pretty dark at the time and there were hundreds of people all shouting and singing and waving flags.

All the windows were hung in red, white, and blue, and we tore down two huge flags to carry around.

All of the Eton boys were in place and running in heavy procession, if in no particular direction!

Our group was separated in the dark and I found myself with two officers whose names I do not yet know! We spent most of our time doing rides on the running boards of cars and I had a blast.

Wednesday June 13th

I went to London for a cocktail party. SPORTS. was there, looked really nice in navy blue, and spent most of the time talking to the elderly but other than that she said she enjoyed it.

Thursday July 12th

I was tidying up P.E. & # 39; s room today and noticed a large photo of Prince Philip on her mantelpiece, even though it wasn't signed.

Saturday July 28th

SPORTS. I called early to say that (her waiting lady) was sick so only she and I would go down (to Arundel). At five o'clock I took the bus to the castle. SPORTS. appeared and we were on our way.

(At Arundel's) we got dressed for dinner – (P.E.) wore her white satin and I wore the blue top. After dinner, we made our way to Amberley (a medieval castle) in different cars. The surroundings were beautiful, but the whole thing lacked spirit and spontaneity. We did enjoy it to a point though, although we weren't sorry when it ended.

Sunday July 29th

(After) tea we played ladida, which consists of sitting in a ring on the floor and passing ashtrays around in a certain way.

The men spent three quarters of an hour over their port while we clapped upstairs and when they came over we played more games. The weekend was certainly the v. Greatest success – the first the princess had ever spent alone for a private visit, and she adored him.

Excerpt from Corinna Honan from The Windsor Diaries: A Childhood With the Princesses by Alathea Fitzalan Howard

Excerpt from Corinna Honan from The Windsor Diaries: A Childhood With the Princesses by Alathea Fitzalan Howard

Saturday 11th August

SPORTS. is incredibly energetic at dancing, rarely sits down, and that is also due to her fear of disappointing the many young men who appear in rows to ask her.

Saturday October 13th

I took the train to London and felt this curious, sick sense of excitement because that day really marked the beginning of a new life for me.

Monday 15th October

I went to Wimborne House, Foreign Relations Department of the Red Cross at nine.

I was accepted into the German-Austrian section, and my job consisted of writing cards for all those who either asked about their relations in Germany and Austria or were asked by them.

Friday October 19th

I find London terribly lonely. I cannot see how it is possible to find a husband for me – I would so much prefer to have a suitable one produced for me and then make the most of life.

Thursday November 22nd

SPORTS. called to say poor P.M. had her attachment out today – in the nursery!

Tuesday December 11th

Got a letter from mom. She said, "Why don't these princesses take you to a theater?"

It hurts me in a sore spot, especially since the next morning the newspapers made headlines about the night of the princesses at a small party. Of course you can't always ask me, but I'm always afraid of P.E. will forget me

EPILOGUE

Alathea's subsequent marriage in 1953 to the Hon. Edward Ward, younger brother of the Earl of Dudley, was not a happy one. She also never had children or realized her dream of becoming a waiting lady.

However, her friendship with the queen lasted until the end of her life. She was invited to their wedding, and although Alathea moved to Switzerland, the friends would occasionally meet for lunch.

In 1999 she gave a little cocktail party for the Queen in her sister's Knightsbridge apartment – she served frozen M&S canapés. That would have been perfectly fine if Alathea had thought of thawing them.

A few months before she died of a brain tumor in 2001, she went to Windsor Castle for a ball. She had a wonderful evening and was delighted to be one of the few who stood on the queen's table.

  • Excerpt from Corinna Honan from The Windsor Diaries: A Childhood With The Princesses by Alathea Fitzalan Howard, edited by Isabella Naylor Leyland, is out October 8th by Hodder & Stoughton, £ 25. © Isabella Naylor Leyland 2020 To order for 21.25 To order £ go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £ 15. Offer price valid until 10/10/2020.

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