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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A Right Royal Fascination

The Sepia Saturday prompt photo for this week shows Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, and her sister Margaret, in costumes they wore for a performance of the pantomime Aladdin in December 1943. I found several reports of this Royal event in both the Australian and New Zealand press and have cut and pasted several of the NZ articles below.

Evening Post, 22 March 1944, snipped from Paperspast web site

NZ Herald, 23 December 1943; Ellesmere Guardian, 28 April 1944, snipped from Paperspast web site

NZ Herald, 6 March 1944, snipped from Paperspast web site

I'm not sure why some of the articles published in the NZ press seem to have been repeated several months after the pantomime took place, but it may have been because the then Princess's 18th birthday was approaching. Here is an article about that event, transcribed on the Paperspast site from the New Zealand Herald of 21 April 1944. The witty lines referred to in the fourth paragraph would have been spoken by Princess Elizabeth in the performance of Aladdin above.

Written for the New Zealand Herald When Princess Elizabeth attains her 18th birthday on April 21, she will come of age, as Heiress-Presumptive, but remain a minor, like anyone else under 21, as one of her father's subjects. This paradoxical position has been established as the result of intense researches into the law governing minors by Lord Simon, the Lord Chancellor, undertaken on the instructions of the King, who is keenly anxious that every possible loose end in connection with the status of his daughters should be clearly and firmly tied up. As soon as she is 18, the Princess can succeed her father as a full Queen, with exercise and control of all the Royal powers and prerogatives, and no necessity whatever for a Council of Regency to guide her. And from April 21 onward, she is available and liable. under the terms of the Regency Act of I 1037, amended at the King's request last year, to act as one of the five Counsellors of State who must act for him in the event of His Majesty's absence abroad or severe illness. But not for another three years, till April 21, 19-17, will Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of Windsor be legally able to sign documents on her own responsibility, deal with or control the private fortune which was left to her by her grandfather, King George V., or otherwise act as a fully grown-up person, unless she becomes Queen in the meantime, in which case she automatically assumes her majority, as did Queen Victoria, who acceded when she was just over 18. 
Knowledge of World Affairs
 So much for the Princess' legal position. But what every one of the millions who will be her subjects in the future wants to know is what kind of girl is she. And because of the fairlv strict seclusion in which she has been brought up, that is a question to which few people know the answer. Tall and slender, the Princess has blue-grey eyes of a very lively intelligence, darkish brown hair with a natural wave in it, a quick brain, her father's and grandfather's eye for detail, and a manner of rather shy charm. Pier voice is clear and well modulated, and she sings in a pleasant contralto of not very great volume. In knowledge of world affairs, of history and geography, with special attention to the British Empire, she is well above the average of well-educated English girls of her own age. and she speaks French fluently, with little accent and a good command of vocabulary. Mathematics is not a strong subject with her, and Latin and Greek are also not her favourites. She has learned a good deal of German and knows many of the poems of Schiller and Goethe by heart, as well as, of course, having Ions: passages of Shakespeare, Tennyson and other English poets by rote, besides Francois de Villon and other French writers. 
An Outdoor Girl 
 But she is far from a blue-stocking. The Princess is emphatically an outdoor girl and she is never happier than when cantering through Windsor Park astride or side-saddle on her chestnut hunter, riding at the side of her father, with whom she has the very closest bonds of affection. She began to learn riding when she was four years old, and like a true horsewoman readily agrees that she is still learning to-day and will go on always learning more about horses and their ways. At present her riding instructor is Colonel Dermot McMurrough Kavanagh. the Crown Equerry, himself an officer of the Hussars, and a martinet for correct behaviour in the saddle whether his pupil is a Royal Princess or a newly-joined trooper. The Princess rides with a ramrod-straight back, and has naturally good, easy hands. She can jump equally well astride or side-saddle, and is looking forward, when peace comes, to adding to her  brief experience of hunting—so far she has been out only once with hounds, when she rode with the Duke of Beaufort's pack during a visit to Queen Mary last winter. One other outdoor exercise has great fascination for the Princess —swimming and diving. She has been able to get a lot of practice at her wartime home in the country, for there is a river close by. Unfortunately the elaborately-equipped private pool which the King had built on the site of the old tennis court at Buckingham Palace for his daughters is wrecked as a result of a Nazi bomb.
 Strong and Fast Swimmer
 In the water. Princess Elizabeth is strong and fast as a swimmer, and she can dive well in n number of different styles. Without any question of the results being "rigged" she won. much to the King's delight, the last Open Children's competition at the Bath Club before that hath. too. was destroyed by a bomb Royal witicisms do not have to be very scintillating to raise a laugh from courtiers, but Princess Elizabeth's sense of humour is genuinely keen, and she can crack a joke with such a serious expression that the point is doubled. In the pantomime which the Princesses give each year in aid of the Royal Household Wool Fund, there were, last Christmas, half a dozen "lines" which carried barbed shafts of wit against various members of the Royal entourage. They were the work of Princess Elizabeth, and when the King heard them for the first time he literally doubled up with laughter, turning round to see how those victims who were in the audience were taking it. All the fun was good-humoured and courtiers who had not been dealt with by the Elizabethan wit were very jealous of those who had! Writing in a neat., round hand, not unlike the King's, the Princess, like her great-great-grandmother. Queen Victoria, is an indefatigable diarist and in addition, all through the war has kept up a daily correspondence with Queen Mary. 
More Public Appearances
 This year will see a certain number of changes in the Princess' life. Her appearance at the England-Scotland match at Wembley was the forerunner of many more public appearances at sporting and other events which she will make after her 18th birthday, but the change will not be dramatic or drastic. There is, for instance, no substance in stories that she will set up her own household, or be given a separate establishment by the King. She will continue to live, as she does now, with her sister Margaret, attended by one footman, a maid and her old nurse. Mrs. Knight, with Scots-born Miss Marion Crawford, the governess.- in general charge. Had it not been for the war, of course, there would have been a fullscale, elaborate "coming out" party for thePrincess as the principal event of a more-than-usually glittering London season. As it is, the Princess will have only a small private dance, of the kind the King and Queen have given several times in the last few months for her, as her "coming-of-Royal-age celebration. She dances well, with a good sense of time and rhythm, as befits one who has had many, many hours oi tuition, and she can perform the intricacies of a Highland reel or fling; as well as the simpler steps of a foxtrot or waltz. "Hot" music does not appeal very much to her. She prefers quieter, "sweeter" tunes, and is herself an up-to-average piano player. She has her own grand, and on it often plays duets with the Queen, who has been a music lover since her girlhood. Princess Margaret, too, sometimes plays with her sister while the Queen listens, and between the two Princesses, one four years younger than the other, there is a, very deep sympathy and understanding. Up to now they have been inseparables; and one of the features of her new life, as she takes a growing part in public affairs, which definitely does not please Princess Elizabeth is that Princess Margaret will not always be with her.
 No New Title 
At Palace parties, for instance, where the King and Queen mingle separately with their guests, the two Princesses remain always together, talking to whom they will, but never apart, so that one fits into the other's conversation with charming effect. Everyone knows now that the Princess will have no new title on her birthday. Though the King will probably make her a Privy Councillor, she will continue to be known as Princess Elizabeth. But few people know that this decision was reached by the King alter asking bis daughter her own wishes. And the fact that she prefers the simple style and title which has been hers since birth is a symbol of the straightforward simple character of the young woman who one day will inherit the greatest responsibilities in the world."

My New Zealand born mother Jean was a big fan of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth all her life, and one reason may have been that they were born in the same year, 1926. Jean would have loved to have been celebrating the Queen's 90th birthday together with her own later this year, but she did not enjoy such good health as the Queen and sadly it was not to be, and she passed away in 2014. 
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited New Zealand in December 1953, not long after the Coronation, but by then Jean and Ian and I were in England for a year, so we were not numbered among the estimated 3 out of every 4 New Zealanders who saw the Royal couple during their month-long tour. One woman reportedly saw the Queen 30 times, and people did things like dyeing their sheep red, white and blue for the occasion, and planting flowers in the appropriate colours. Anyone interested can read more about the tour in considerable detail here in an article on the New Zealand |History web site.
Someone back in New Zealand sent me a letter in this commemorative envelope, dutifully pasted into my trip scrapbook by Jean, but there's no letter inside, so I don't know if whoever wrote it was one of those 3 out of 4 New Zealanders who saw the Queen on her travels. In the words of Elizabethan poet Thomas Ford, famously quoted by Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies during the Queen's visit to Australia in 1963,  they 'did but see her passing by ...'  That was certainly the case when I saw her as a schoolchild that year in Canberra, having waited for hours in the sun to see nothing more than a blurry wave of a hand in a limousine.


So Jean did not get to see the Queen on that NZ visit, but she and Ian did attend a Royal garden party at Buckingham Palace in 1954. I've posted this photograph of them dressed in their finery in a previous post, but it seems appropriate to show it again here.

Jean had a baby Staffordshire Fine China cup that was issued for the Queen's coronation and looked just like the one above, but I'm sad to say it broke and I no longer have it. Mum would have been very disappointed, and perhaps I should buy a replacement, but meanwhile I just have to be satisfied with this:

Coincidentally we are flying off to England tonight, but we won't arrive there until the day after the Queen's actual birthday, and are not expecting to attend any celebrations, unless we run into them by accident. I expect to be on a blogging break for a few weeks.

Now for more Sepian thoughts on this week's prompt, just click here