Magazine article The Spectator

The Queen and I

Magazine article The Spectator

The Queen and I

Article excerpt

Well it's all too terribly, terribly exciting: 60 glorious years on the throne of England and almost more than that in my consciousness.

I first became aware of the then Princess Elizabeth when I was a young evacuee in Ilfracombe. In my parents' sudden mad rush from London to escape the Blitz, unnecessary things like toys were left behind. I made do by playing with conkers and skipping on an old frayed rope but it was all rather boring until the woman next door produced a treasure - an old cuttingout book from the 1937 C oronation of King George VI. Inside were two pretty cardboard figures of the young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, aged about 11 and eight. How lovely the cutouts were, in their dainty modest undies, and how much fun it was to press them out from the book and carefully try on the stylish outfits.

I wiled away so many hours dressing them up in their little kilts and pale jumpers and cardigans or lacy party frocks and having imaginary conversations with them that by the time the doodlebugs stopped raining on London and we were taken back home again, the little princesses and their tissue outfits were in tatters.

A few years later, and Princess Elizabeth was preparing for her wedding to Prince Philip, whom my father rather rudely referred to as 'Phil the Greek'. I however thought that Prince Philip was as handsome as any movie star (eat your heart out Montgomery Clift) as I cut and pasted pictures from newspapers and magazines of Philip and Elizabeth into a special scrapbook I kept just for them. The wedding was so outstandingly glamorous in an England still suffering from postwar austerity and rationing that I and my fellow schoolmates (and indeed the whole country) were gripped. Princess Elizabeth looked radiant in her engagement pictures. At 21, she glowed and we all wanted to be just like her, marry a handsome prince and live happily ever after. The wedding was also a fairy tale, but with a slight twist - it was especially moving when the newspapers reported that the Princess had saved up all her clothing coupons to buy the fabric for her magnificent gown.

The C oronation, with its gold coach drawn by gleaming white horses, had more pomp and ceremony than any 15 Hollywood movie could ever aspire to. …

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