Young Queen Elizabeth’s crush on Prince Philip revealed in friend’s diaries

More On:

queen elizabeth

Rare Bentley once owned by Queen Elizabeth is up for sale — with a royal price tag

An inside look at Prince Philip’s burial plans

Inside the many homes Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip shared over the years

Prince Philip’s life was hard, he did his duty and it was a lesson to us all

Alathea Fitzalan Howard was a moody teen aristocrat when, at the outset of World War II, her socialite mother sent her to live with her stuffy grandfather and dreary aunt in Windsor Great Park, outside of London. Fortunately, the royal family had evacuated Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to Windsor, too, and soon the 16-year-old Alathea was attending weekly drawing lessons, dance classes and teas at their castle — and obsessively chronicling it all in her diaries.

Royal watchers can now read Alathea’s unvarnished observations in “The Windsor Diaries: My Childhood with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret” (Atria Books), out now. Howard — who died in 2001 at the age of 77 — kept a diary for 64 years, and this first published volume spans 1940 to 1945, when she was 16 to 21 years old, and offers a fascinating glimpse of the sweet, simple, somewhat awkward young girl who would become Queen Elizabeth II.

“She’s the most ungossipy person I know,” Alathea wrote, somewhat disappointed, about her new BFF, who was two years her junior. “Placid and unemotional, she never desires what doesn’t come her way.” 

She then added, “Margaret is far and away more the type I would like for the future queen.” 

Alathea knew the two princesses as a child, but she hadn’t seen them in years until they all ended up in Windsor in 1940, to escape the London Blitz. That January, Elizabeth, not quite 14, invited Alathea ice skating. The king picked her up and Alathea played hockey with “Lilibet” — Elizabeth’s childhood nickname — and Margaret. It wasn’t long before Alathea was regularly visiting the castle for fun and games: playing cards, taking ballet and dance, staging elaborate pageants (Elizabeth always got stuck playing the boy), and — shockingly — “spitting over a bridge into a stream trying to hit leaves as they floated by.” 

She also spent a lot of time with their parents, noting in her diary that King George VI once told the queen not to eat so many cream cakes at tea, before teasing Lilibet about her “hair consciousness.” (Poor Elizabeth seemed to constantly struggle with her locks, such as when the 15-year-old princess got a new perm that was “too stiff.”) 

Alathea witnessed Elizabeth’s early infatuation with her future husband, then Prince Philip of Greece. “Can you keep a secret?” a 14-year-old Elizabeth asked Alathea before admitting that Philip was her “boy.” 

“[Lilibet] says she cuts [his] photos out of the paper!” Alathea reported in her diary after that first confession. (Later, when Philip sent the 17-year-old Elizabeth a portrait of himself for Christmas, the future queen “danced round the room with it for joy!”) 

Still, Elizabeth had other romantic crushes. Both she and Alathea swooned over the dashing Hugh Euston (11th duke of Grafton), and the princess revealed she was “jealous” after Alathea danced with him at a ball. She even stole a piece of paper with his handwriting on it, which she hid in a drawer. Before parties, she and Alathea would study the list of boys who would be attending. 

Elizabeth was, Alathea wrote, “tremendously energetic at dances hardly ever sitting down at all, and this is as much due to her fear of disappointing the many young men who come up in rows to ask her.” She often danced till 4 a.m., Alathea wrote. 

But Alathea often scoffed at the “Royal Family’s simple tastes.” She thought their fascination with making their dogs jump over nets “boring,” complained about their lowbrow taste in films (though she never refused their invitation to the cinema), and ridiculed their fashion sense. 

“Their clothes have gone down a lot since the war,” she wrote after noting the princesses’ shabby brown check skirts and “Aertex shirts,” which she later called “ordinary.” Elsewhere Alathea mentioned Elizabeth’s “puffy face” and “enormous chest.” 

By the end of the diary, Alathea and Elizabeth drift further apart: Alathea works at a hospital and is busy tending to wounded soldiers, and neither young woman has time for spitting games. There is, however, one scene where 16-year-old Elizabeth opens up about her insecurities and conflicted feelings about being queen and living such a public life. 

“She said she wondered if she’d ever marry,” wrote Alathea. “And she said if she really wanted to marry someone she’d run away, but I knew she wouldn’t really — her sense of duty is too strong though she’s suited to a simpler life.” 

In that moment, Elizabeth revealed a “new Lilibet”: “I saw behind the outward calm and matter-of-factness into something lovable and sincere — I knew this aspect of her would fade with daylight, but it is one I shall never forget.”

Share this article:

Source: Read Full Article