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Will she stand out in history as another great Elizabeth?

In our third exclusive extract from the previously unpublished teenage diaries of Alathea Fitzalan Howard, a lifelong friend of the Queen and Princess Margaret, she describes picnics, dinners and games with the Royal Family and confesses her fear of change as the growing sense of duty felt by Elizabeth as the war progressed meant the friends spent less time together… 

Thursday, July 30, 1942

Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park

P.E. [Princess Elizabeth] showed me two new pairs of shoes — they were grey and wine suede and navy blue suede lace-up ones with crêpe soles — v. smart and v. unlike her. She is also having three of the Q’s evening dresses altered for her.

Saturday, August 1

I sat next to the King at lunch; I must say he is not easy to talk to and yet I never feel shy with him. We read papers in the Q’s room afterwards. Later Lilibet and the King went for a walk and the Queen and I talked a lot and so naturally. I love her so very much.

Rising confidence: A young Queen Elizabeth wearing one of her mother's gowns in 1945 at the age of 19

Rising confidence: A young Queen Elizabeth wearing one of her mother’s gowns in 1945 at the age of 19

I felt blissfully happy sitting out here under the shady trees with this so very happy family — four people who mean everything to each other, whose lives form one spiritual whole, independent of the aid of all outsiders, or even relations.

Deborah Green-Wilkinson came round the terrace with her platoon of ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service] — people are taken round sightseeing every Saturday — and the Q, P.M. [Princess Margaret] and I got up and hid behind a yew bush, as otherwise they hang over the wall and stare.

But we were too late to choose a good place and afterwards realised they must have seen us quite well through the gaps, dancing about behind the bush in our frocks and wide straw hats!

Friday, September 4

Letter from P.E. [from Scotland] — it was sweet but so like that of a child of 11. I think it is the greatest pity she cannot compose a good letter — it gives such a bad impression, and it is even frightening when one considers she is 16 and might be Queen tomorrow. Until she has trouble and sorrow she cannot hope to be great.

Sunday, October 11

I got off at four [from Queens Mead, a Red Cross home for displaced civilians, where she did voluntary work] and met Daddy in the Long Walk and we walked across to Adelaide Cottage to tea with the Philipps [Lt Col Sir Grismond Picton Phillips, known as Jackie, equerry to George VI and commander of the Castle Company, in charge of guarding the King at Windsor, and his wife Joan].

To my intense joy, Hugh [Euston, a Guards officer both Alathea and Elizabeth were keen on] came in and spent the rest of the evening till we left. He was sweet to me. He looked ill, though, and I could see he was depressed and unsettled — I felt I could make him happy.

I did not think he was in love with anyone and that if he wanted to marry he would as soon choose me as anyone. Why doesn’t an idea occur to him that is the object of my most fervent prayers, night and day?

King George VI speaks with his eldest daughter Elizabeth in the garden at Windsor

King George VI speaks with his eldest daughter Elizabeth in the garden at Windsor 

Alathea Fitzalan Howard (pictured) kept a journal of her time at Windsor with a young Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret

Alathea Fitzalan Howard (pictured) kept a journal of her time at Windsor with a young Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret

Thursday, November 12

PM made me laugh by saying she dreamt that [the Princesses’ cousin] Margaret Elphinstone was sitting on Hugh’s knee and that P.E. and I were sitting at his feet v. jealous!

Saturday, November 14

Biked to Queens Mead. Soon after I’d arrived, Barbara [Crichton, a fellow volunteer whose father was an equerry to George VI] said to me, ‘Perhaps you’d rather work by yourself if you don’t consider us good enough for you.’ 

Flabbergasted, I demanded to know what she meant and she went on saying the most dreadful things to me. I rushed downstairs to Drusilla [Maude, another volunteer] and amid sobs and tears made her explain it — she admitted they’d all thought me rather snooty and that I said things that offended people. 

She took my part, though to my horror she said someone outside once told her I thought I ought to be working with people of higher rank. No doubt it was some malicious old gossip who, because I go to the Castle, assumed I must be like that.

Never in my wildest dreams have I uttered or even thought such a thing — it is awful to have that reputation and once got it is hard to live down.

Sunday, November 15

Everyone was v. nice including Barbara, yet I was unhappier today and felt suddenly overcome for no particular reason and my tears gushed forth uncontrollably and silently. I longed for the moment when I could be alone. 

Barbara might have been sorry but had she seen the tears I shed at her expense? As I wept I thought how unhappy I was, how alone in the world. 

Then I got up and fetched my knife and tore the flesh on my forearm till I was exhausted and couldn’t cry any more. No one will know what I did tonight. It gratifies some strange impulse and succeeds more than anything else in abating my grief and anger.

Princess Elizabeth learns to tie a knot with the girl guides in Frogmore, Windsor in 1942

Princess Elizabeth learns to tie a knot with the girl guides in Frogmore, Windsor in 1942

Thursday, November 19

I told P.E. and P.M. about the white lace I’m thinking of buying and when I mentioned a victory ball, they both said I’d look so conspicuous and that everyone would be in rags by that time! 

Their tastes are so plain since the war and I’m sure they slightly disapprove of me in some ways. 

We went out to see the ponies and I fell to wondering what fate awaited this girl, who was in character and tastes so much simpler than I. 

Will she stand out in history as another great Elizabeth, or will she merely be a commonplace puppet in a rapidly degenerating monarchy? She seems to have no desire to win fame for herself.

Tuesday, November 24

My nineteenth birthday. The princesses came with Crawfie [governess Marion Crawford]. They gave me a lovely green suede bag. We had tea [and] played charades and laughed a great deal! They all left at about seven.

Thursday, November 26

I joined the Princesses and drove up to London with them and [nanny] Mrs Knight. I left my case in P.E.’s room at Buckingham Palace. The Royal Family came in later [for an afternoon party] and received all the Americans and the rest of the guests.

We then went into the long corridor outside, where a buffet stretched the whole length of it, and talked to the Americans. There were about 300 people altogether; the K and Q moved about among them and the Princesses stood together talking to everyone who was brought up to them.

P.E. [aged 16] wore that awful blue silk frock with the little pleated cape, which is the worst thing she could possibly wear with her figure. 

P.M. [aged 12] had a nondescript silk frock on — they are so badly dressed now but I was glad they weren’t alike today. We all found conversation rather difficult. Joined the Princesses upstairs at six and we drove back to Windsor in the dark and discussed everything and everybody.

Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret pictured together knitting for the Forces in the grounds of Royal Lodge in Windsor in 1940

Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret pictured together knitting for the Forces in the grounds of Royal Lodge in Windsor in 1940








Friday, December 11

Went up to [Windsor] Castle for the pantomime Sleeping Beauty — Princess Margaret especially looked divine as the Good Fairy, though P.E. looked slightly old among so many children and it is a pity she is always the boy.

Thursday, December 24

I should like to have heard from the Princesses [then at Sandringham], as it seems so long since I last saw them. 

It struck me as sad that [Lilibet] counts so little on her friends — it would seem she will never change: she will marry and be a model wife and mother, devoted to her family and dogs, and never desire anything more. But then again, who can know what lies ahead?

Monday, January 11, 1943

I felt v. nervous beginning my 50 hours [voluntary hospital work]. At first I was shocked by the sight of so many white, ill faces but I soon got used to it and even managed the bedpans well, though I retched out of the sluice-room window once or twice!

Tuesday, February 2

Sonia [a mutual friend of P.E. and Alathea] told me she’d often heard Hugh [then aged 23] talked of as the ‘Prince Consort’. If only, if only, he’d marry me before he gets further compromised.

Thursday, February 11

Rode up to the Castle for drawing [a lesson with the Princesses]. [Afterwards] we took it in turns to ride the little cream Norwegian pony, Hans, bareback, which was fun. 

Came in for tea and I got ready in P.E.’s room — I was struck by the odd mixture of nursery chintz and elegant striped brocade, of monstrous Victorian wardrobes and graceful Rococo chairs!

Thursday, February 18

We discussed what fun it would be to have a fancy-dress ball and Crawfie said she would come as a man and flirt with us all! P.E. vaguely hinted they might be having a dance and said something about ‘lengthening’ it, in the hope that [Prince] Philip might get leave.

Saturday, February 27

I had tea with the K and Q and the Princesses, then we went to the film — a farce called George Washington Slept Here, which they thought the funniest thing they’d seen, and I secretly couldn’t bear!

The extracts will be published for the first time in a book entitled The Windsor Diaries 1940-45

The extracts will be published for the first time in a book entitled The Windsor Diaries 1940-45

Thursday, March 25

P.E. showed me the list and we talked about all the men who were coming [to a party that evening at the castle]. There were about 150 people. Hugh was there but I could not get away from the bitter fact that my case is hopeless.

Wednesday, April 21

Princess Elizabeth’s seventeenth birthday [at Sandringham] — I thought of her a lot during the day and missed her.

Thursday, June 10

We drew at Frogmore today — the drawing things were brought down in a little pony carriage driven by two grooms; Crawfie walked and the Princesses and I bicycled. We settled ourselves on the corner of the lake by the little mock ruin, then had a picnic tea.

Thursday, June 24

P.E. was sweet today and said it was a pity they didn’t see more of me now (whose fault is that?) but I wish she wasn’t so dispassionate. 

No such things as vows of eternal friendship could ever pass between us — I happen to be part of her surroundings, taken for granted while I am there, but she shows no desire to talk or exchange thoughts and ideas with one of her own age.

Her temperament is unsuited to forming strong attachments — no doubt this is a blessing in one of her position and she is wholly fitted for being a queen but I believe her sister will be quite different. I think, were it not for the difference in our ages, I could make a greater friend of [M], though I shall always be deeply devoted to P.E.

Monday, October 4

Hugh Euston is going out to India [as aide-de-camp to the Viceroy, Lord Wavell] as he is unfit for fighting. I am glad for him and for myself I no longer care.

Thursday, November 4

Biked up to the Castle — we began posters for the pantomime, which is to be Aladdin. We went to see the two new Norwegian foals they bought in Scotland and took them for a walk through Frogmore. How they do love their ponies!

Thursday, November 11

P.E. was rather distant today. P.M. is more friendly and I nearly always go to her room to tidy, which to me is v. strange, but I know [P.E.] too well now to be hurt by it.

Sunday, November 14

Drusilla would not at first believe that not only have I never been kissed but that no one has ever even attempted to do so to me! I thought of P.E. — she, like me, talks with men without ever encouraging them nearer.

Wednesday, November 24

My twentieth birthday.

Thursday, November 25

The servants were wonderful and got out all the silver and best china, etc., and the table looked lovely. 

Princess Elizabeth arrived just after eight. It was the first time P.E. had ever been out to dinner and she said it was lovely to come here first. Her face was made up and she looked v. pretty, with a dignified grace peculiar to herself.

After dinner I showed her my presents while the men were still in the dining room and she gave me the most lovely handkerchief sachet, made of pink net and white lace with pot-pourri inserted.

We began by playing a paper game, then acting clumps [guessing a word from its definition] and charades, and we all laughed a lot. They didn’t leave till quarter to 12, so they must have enjoyed it.

Thursday, December 2

Went to watch the pantomime rehearsal. I think the Princesses ought not to touch the schoolchildren — P.E. and the awful little boy who plays the mother of Aladdin actually pat each other on the back and link arms. 

Came in and we went to the Queen’s sitting room to have tea with her. [Her niece] Margaret [Elphinstone] was there, and I was astonished to hear her call the Queen ‘Peter’, which is a family nickname for her.

Saturday, December 18

To the Castle for the pantomime. The K and Q came with the Duchess of Kent and Prince Philip of Greece, who is very fair and older-looking than when I saw him last year. 

He seems so suited to P.E. and I kept wondering today whether he is her future husband. I think it is the most desirable event that could possibly happen. She would like it and, though he could not be in love with her, I believe he is not averse to the idea.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on their allotment in the grounds of Windsor Castle in 1943, taking part in the government's 'Dig For Victory' campaign

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on their allotment in the grounds of Windsor Castle in 1943, taking part in the government’s ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign

Tuesday, January 4, 1944

Had a letter from Mummy, who told me P.E. is ‘keen’ on [Marquess] David Milford Haven, who is in love with Bridget Elliott [daughter of the Earl of Minto] and trying his best to escape from P.E., whom he thinks deadly. Personally, I doubt P.E. likes David MH in that way.

Thursday, February 3

Biked to Queens Mead. I felt bored beyond endurance with the endless round of housework. There are times when I could gladly strangle everybody there.

Thursday, February 10

P.E. is not taking drawing this term, as she would prefer an extra music lesson. I think she is discouraged by her sister’s greater quickness at it, and now she has less time to spare it would be better to devote it to music, which she is really good at.

Thursday, March 2

Biked to drawing, after which we had spitting competitions in the lake at Frogmore! P.M. was quite unmanageable while we were out — in some ways she is so v. young and childish, quite unlike P.E. — yet one cannot help laughing at her.

P.E. was in London today. It is sad, her life is becoming so less and less her own.

Thursday, March 9

I went out with P.E. alone for half an hour. It was only the second time I’ve done this and Crawfie apparently thought it a good idea. [P.E.] told me the Duchess of Kent took her to lunch at Claridge’s last week, which fascinated her, as she’d never been in a hotel before.

Thursday, March 30

The last lesson. From remarks dropped, I gathered that [drawing teacher] Mrs Cox will not be returning next term but another artist will be teaching P.M. Perhaps I shan’t be included in these lessons?

Monday, April 17

I want more than anything else to take part in [P.E.’s] eighteenth birthday and it is agony to wait and wait in silence and then perhaps be bitterly disappointed.

Friday, April 21

Well, here is the day [P.E.’s birthday] on which I counted so much, and it’s ended in my having nothing to do and plenty of leisure to think of my dear Princess. I envied her nature — normal, rational and simple.

Grandpa went out and three royal cars passed him — they stopped and he was told the King would like to see him. Queen Mary was there and they talked for some minutes. 

He was so pleased, most honoured that they should have stopped. I was right — they had a complete family luncheon party [for P.E.’s birthday].

Tuesday, May 2

Elizabeth Anne [Alathea’s sister] arrived today. She told me all that Mummy had said on the subject of my taste, which she says I have caught from P.E. — it isn’t true, actually, as I think I would anyway have always loved frills and pretty things, though I did imitate the Princesses a great deal when we were children.

Friday, May 5

Got to the Castle at 9[pm] P.E. wore a new dress of red and green check organdie, which I thought ugly, though a pretty shape. I danced with the King in the Paul Jones — it made my evening. 

He was in naval uniform and we talked quite a lot. We ate salmon mayonnaise, chicken mousse and white soufflé with jam sauce and drank champagne.

Sunday, May 7

The clock was striking 6 as I got into bed, and I had to get out of it again at 7.30 and bike to work, so you can imagine what I felt like all day!

Saturday, May 13

I saw in the paper that Princess Margaret has begun drawing lessons with Charles Knight [a respected landscape painter]. I felt certain then that I would not be included.

Monday, May 15

I feel I shall never see them again, that they will forget my existence — they are so busy and so happy; they can’t realise my loneliness or how I love and depend on them.

Wednesday, May 17

Crawfie rang me up after breakfast and said would I come to drawing again! My prayer had been answered.

Thursday, May 18

P.M. showed us the corgi puppy, Susan. Poor Carol was put to sleep recently and she was my favourite. [After our drawing lesson] we went out to see the ponies and returned for tea — P.E. was there, having a music lesson. I began calling her Ma’am for the first time!

Monday, May 22

Biked up to the Castle and met the Princesses. Joined the rest of the party outside, [including] Wing Commander [Peter] Townsend, the King’s new equerry, who was charming and v. gay. 

We all piled into the brake, driven by two large grey horses, with the hampers of food, and started off for Royal Lodge, the Queen watching us from a window. We walked round the garden till tea, which was laid out on a long table on the lawn. 

After tea we played clumps, charades, twos and threes, and the time passed v. quickly.

We were all gay and informal, yet there was dignity about it, which is lacking in most of the parties of today, making them a touch on the sordid.

We went into the house to tidy and had dinner outside at eight — sausage rolls, lobster and venison patties, asparagus, sandwiches, jam puffs, cold drinks and strawberries and cream and coffee. P.E. wore a blue and green check coat and skirt and a hideous yellow silk Aertex shirt.

After dinner it was so much fun going back [to the castle in a carriage with the Princesses], because one is at one’s merriest at the end of a party and it was lovely driving through the park as it grew dusk. 

We sang all the way, mostly old songs. We passed a few people but no one recognised the Princesses at that hour.

Thursday, May 25

P.E. took me to her room to tidy and showed me some of her [18th] birthday presents — a beautiful diamond and sapphire bracelet from the King, a pin-on watch in diamonds and rubies, which I adored, from the Beauforts and Cambridges — she also told me Queen Mary gave her a bracelet and necklace, the King of Norway a dressing case and she had a small diamond tiara too.

Saturday, May 27

Grandpa and I drove down to the horse show in the Home Park. P.E. drove Hans, the cream Norwegian pony, in a little phaeton that Queen Victoria used to use, and behind squatted a tiny groom in a top hat — it was the most perfect turnout. I was thrilled she won the first prize.

Thursday, June 1

P.E. told me about three VADs [nurses from the Voluntary Aid Detachment] who had hitchhiked to the horse show and were picked up by the Duke of Beaufort, who knew them, and took them all the way. 

Then the King and Queen heard of this and invited them to dinner with them at Royal Lodge and to spend the night at the Castle, so they could go back with the duke the next morning, instead of hitch-hiking in the heat. They were so thrilled!

Tuesday, June 6

In the early hours of this morning, our forces landed on the coast of Normandy. The long-expected invasion has begun.

Thursday, June 8

I went out with P.E. to see the foals. P.E. told me how terrible a strain it was for the King over the weekend waiting for the invasion and then living through it all for a further 24 hours, when it had to be put off from Sunday till Monday night, and also that the Queen spent almost the whole of Monday night at the window looking at the planes, unable to sleep. 

She, P.E., said she did not know beforehand and was thankful. We came in for tea and laughed over Crawfie imitating people.

Saturday, July 8

I went to the film at the Castle. It was Noël Coward’s This Happy Breed and v. good. The K, Q and Princesses came, and Prince Philip of Greece. I sat behind him and P.E. Prince Philip laughed v. loudly and the King made comments aloud.

[As I was going home] I saw one of these things with the whole of its tail lit up like fire — so I fled and then, to my horror, saw another coming straight at me. 

Actually they were flying fast with no sign of dropping. But it was frightening being out alone and seeing these flaming dragons charging through the sky and knowing no one was inside them.

Tuesday, July 11

Glancing at The Times before breakfast, I saw that Lady Mary Palmer has been made lady-in-waiting to P.E.. The shock to my feelings was great, though I put on a forced cheerfulness all day.

That someone whom until ten days ago P.E. hardly knew by sight should take the place for which I have yearned for years is hard — though she isn’t one of P.E.’s own friends like me, which makes it bearable!

Thursday, July 13

I asked P.E. if she’d enjoyed herself last weekend and she said ‘he’ had come unexpectedly and she was thrilled. We drove back to [my home] and had tea, then played racing demon and paper games.

P.E. said she’d never seen [Mary Palmer] before last week but that she seems quite nice, though looks rather alarming.

Extracted from The Windsor Diaries: A Childhood With The Princesses, by Alathea Fitzalan Howard, edited by Isabella Naylor Leyland, to be published by Hodder & Stoughton on October 8, £25. © Isabella Naylor Leyland 2020. 

To order a copy for £21.25, go to www.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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