Alathea Fitzalan Howard was a moody teen aristocrat when, on the outset of World War II, her socialite mom despatched her to stay together with her stuffy grandfather and dreary aunt in Windsor Great Park, exterior of London. Fortunately, the royal household had evacuated Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to Windsor, too, and shortly the 16-year-old Alathea was attending weekly drawing classes, dance courses and teas at their fort — and obsessively chronicling all of it in her diaries.
Royal watchers can now learn 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 on the age of 77 — saved a diary for 64 years, and this primary published quantity spans 1940 to 1945, when she was 16 to 21 years outdated, and affords an enchanting glimpse of the candy, easy, considerably awkward younger woman who would grow to be Queen Elizabeth II.
“She’s the most ungossipy person I know,” Alathea wrote, considerably disillusioned, 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 2 princesses as a baby, however she hadn’t seen them in years till all of them ended up in Windsor in 1940, to flee the London Blitz. That January, Elizabeth, not fairly 14, invited Alathea ice skating. The king picked her up and Alathea performed hockey with “Lilibet” — Elizabeth’s childhood nickname — and Margaret. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Alathea was commonly visiting the fort for enjoyable and video games: taking part in playing cards, taking ballet and dance, staging elaborate pageants (Elizabeth all the time bought caught taking part in the boy), and — shockingly — “spitting over a bridge into a stream trying to hit leaves as they floated by.”
She additionally spent quite a lot of time with their dad and mom, noting in her diary that King George VI as soon as instructed the queen to not eat so many cream truffles at tea, earlier than teasing Lilibet about her “hair consciousness.” (Poor Elizabeth appeared to always battle together with her locks, akin to when the 15-year-old princess bought a brand new perm that was “too stiff.”)
Alathea witnessed Elizabeth’s early infatuation together with her future husband, then Prince Philip of Greece. “Can you keep a secret?” a 14-year-old Elizabeth requested Alathea earlier than 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 despatched the 17-year-old Elizabeth a portrait of himself for Christmas, the longer term queen “danced round the room with it for joy!”)
Still, Elizabeth had different romantic crushes. Both she and Alathea swooned over the dashing Hugh Euston (eleventh duke of Grafton), and the princess revealed she was “jealous” after Alathea danced with him at a ball. She even stole a bit of paper along with his handwriting on it, which she hid in a drawer. Before events, she and Alathea would research the checklist of boys who can 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 usually danced until 4 a.m., Alathea wrote.
But Alathea usually scoffed on the “Royal Family’s simple tastes.” She thought their fascination with making their canine soar over nets “boring,” complained about their lowbrow style in movies (although she by no means refused their invitation to the cinema), and ridiculed their style sense.
“Their clothes have gone down a lot since the war,” she wrote after noting the princesses’ shabby brown test skirts and “Aertex shirts,” which she later referred to as “ordinary.” Elsewhere Alathea talked about Elizabeth’s “puffy face” and “enormous chest.”
By the tip of the diary, Alathea and Elizabeth drift additional aside: Alathea works at a hospital and is busy tending to wounded troopers, and neither younger lady has time for spitting video games. There is, nevertheless, one scene the place 16-year-old Elizabeth opens up about her insecurities and conflicted emotions about being queen and dwelling 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 second, 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.”