I was first moved to write about my childhood memories of Queen Elizabeth following the celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee, a milestone event for her 70 years as Monarch in British sovereignty and history. It was clear that the Queen became frailer after the loss of Prince Philip, but her death on September 8, 2022, at age 96, coming after the smiling photographs of her two days earlier with her new Prime Minister, was a shock.
The Second World War was coming to an end. Victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, together with their daughters Elizabeth and Margaret and with Winston Churchill, shared the nation’s euphoria from the balcony at Buckingham Palace as multitudes sang the National Anthem and wartime favorites. The King and Queen had helped to sustain a nation that “kept calm and carried on.”
They had walked through bombed out areas, often when the rubble was still smoldering, comforting people in shock, people with virtually nothing left. They were greeted with tears and cheers. Churchill, too, walked through the hardest hit areas. “Good Old Winnie” they said, “we knew you’d come.”
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret emerged from their wartime home at Windsor Castle. There, Princess Elizabeth began her apprenticeship to become a reigning queen. Her father introduced her to the constitutional duties of the monarch, including “doing the boxes”. The red dispatch boxes, containing vital government documents to be reviewed and signed by the sovereign, are delivered every day except Sundays and Christmas Day. Out of the public eye a dutiful monarch has a desk job for the rest of their life.
She corresponded too with a handsome, exiled Prince of Greece, Philip, who had graduated the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, and was serving with distinction in the Royal Navy. The princess was 13 and he 18 at their first publicly recorded meeting, in 1939, when the royal family visited the Royal Naval College. He a showoff then, she impressed, they would share a love that would last a lifetime.