Wednesday, 21 September 2022

In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022 by Catherine Randall

As you will all know, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sadly died earlier this month at the age of 96. As a nation, we said goodbye to her at her magnificent state funeral on Monday, and we want to remember her here on the Time Tunnellers blog this week too.

When we’re thinking about the Queen, it can be hard for us to imagine that our lives ever had anything in common with her life. It’s especially hard for those of us who are still children. Most of us don’t live in palaces, or regularly meet Presidents and Prime Ministers. We don’t usually get the chance to thank people who are making a difference to our world by their charity work, or their work for the emergency services - something that the Queen often did. But if we take a look at the Queen’s childhood, we can see that there were important experiences that she shared with other children at the time, as well as things that she continued to share with children throughout her life.

One of the things that she shared with many people during her long life was of course her love of animals, especially dogs and horses.

Not many people will have been given their first pony by their grandfather the King, but lots of children will have had the joy of their parents bringing home a new family dog. This is what happened to Princess Elizabeth when she was seven.

One of her friends had a Pembroke Welsh corgi dog, and Princess Elizabeth wanted one too. Her father, the Duke of York, obviously thought this was a good idea, because one day in 1933 he brought home a corgi as a family pet. The dog was called Dookie, and apparently was very badly behaved, biting both courtiers and visitors, but Princess Elizabeth loved him.

Princess Elizabeth with her first corgi, Dookie

Soon another corgi, Jane, joined the family. You can see how much Princess Elizabeth loved her dogs in this picture from 1936 showing her with Dookie and Jane, and her mother, the Duchess of York.

Princess Elizabeth with her mother, the Duchess of York,
and their corgis, Dookie and Jane in 1936

By this time, in 1936, her beloved Grandpa had died and her uncle, the Prince of Wales, had become King Edward VIII. It was at this point that Princess Elizabeth’s life changed for ever.

Edward VIII wanted to marry an American lady called Mrs Simpson but, even though he was King, the government wouldn’t let him marry her because she had been divorced twice and in those days it was considered completely unacceptable for a King to marry a divorced person. King Edward VIII decided to step down from the throne rather than give up the woman he wanted to marry, and his brother -Princess Elizabeth’s father - became King George VI instead. This was called the Abdication and it happened in December 1936. From this time on, Princess Elizabeth became heir to the throne.

A souvenir of King Edward VIII’s coronation – 
the coronation that never happened because the King abdicated before he was crowned

From now on Princess Elizabeth’s life might have become even less like that of other children, if it hadn’t been for the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Like many children, Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret Rose, were evacuated from London to protect them from enemy bombing. Although they were sent to stay at Windsor Castle, the royal residence to the west of London, rather than having to live with total strangers, they were still separated from their parents who remained at Buckingham Palace throughout the war. In 1940, Princess Elizabeth gave her very first radio broadcast during the BBC Children’s Hour, addressing other child evacuees: ‘My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all…’

Princess Elizabeth giving her first radio broadcast from Windsor Castle, aged 14

The royal sisters were not even entirely safe at Windsor – many bombs fell in the area, and they often had to take refuge in the castle’s bomb shelters during an air raid.

Before the end of the war, at the age of 18, Princess Elizabeth signed up for the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and trained and worked as a driver and mechanic. Like other girls her age, she was determined to do her bit for the war effort.

At the victory celebrations in 1945, Princess Elizabeth stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her parents and sister, acknowledging the cheers of a delighted and relieved crowd. However, afterwards, she shared the jubilation of the people, as she and her sister were allowed out of the palace to go and mingle anonymously with the crowd. Later, Queen Elizabeth described this as ‘one of the most memorable nights of my life.’  She said, ‘I remember we were terrified of being recognised…I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.’

Princess Elizabeth’s corgis remained very important to her. On her birthday in 1944 she was given a corgi called Susan. Remarkably, all the Queen’s dogs after this were descended from Susan, who lived to the ripe old age of 14.

Princess Elizabeth with her dog, Susan, given to her on her eighteenth birthday

Queen Elizabeth remained devoted to her corgis throughout the rest of her life. You may have seen her two current dogs, Muick and Sandy, on television on Monday, watching the funeral procession at Windsor Castle.

It was a fitting and touching personal tribute to Queen Elizabeth, the longest serving monarch in British history.

View Catherine's Time Tunnellers YouTube video here

The White Phoenix by Catherine Randall is an historical novel for 9-12 year olds set in London, 1666. It was shortlisted for the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award 2021.

Published by the Book Guild, it is available from bookshops and online retailers.

For more information, go to Catherine’s website:

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