The Queen's cousin offers a personal glimpse

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This last Thursday would have been the 111th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Queen Mum died on Easter Saturday 2002, having lived through the entire 20th century and a year of the 21st.

Margaret Rhodes, daughter of the Queen Mother's older sister, has written a new book, The Final Curtsey, about life with her aunt and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. The Daily Mail has run several excerpts from the book along with photos of the royal family from Mrs. Rhodes' personal collection.

The Queen and I: Mrs. Rhodes' years as her aunt's lady-in-waiting. I was fascinated by the presence of Tupperware or some competing brand of plastic self-sealing container in the photos of the royals eating outdoors at Balmoral in the 1980s.

Mrs. Rhodes writes of her childhood: adventures with her cousins, growing up in a noble house, learning of "Uncle Bertie's" ascent to the throne, and sneaking out of Buckingham Palace with Princess Elizabeth on VE and VJ day.

I was 20 in 1945. VE Day was a euphoric moment. I was still at the Palace and that evening we had a huge party. My eldest brother, John, who had been a prisoner of war, was there and a gang of us, including the two Princesses, were given permission by the King and Queen to slip away anonymously and join the rejoicing crowds on the streets.

This sort of freedom was unheard of as far as my cousins were concerned.

There must have been about 16 of us and we had as escort the King's Equerry, a very correct Royal Navy captain in a pinstriped suit, bowler hat and umbrella. No one appeared less celebratory, perhaps because he took his guardian responsibilities too
seriously.

Princess Elizabeth was in uniform, as a subaltern in the Auxiliary Transport Service - the ATS. She pulled her peaked cap well down over her face to disguise her much-photographed image, but a Grenadier among the party refused to be seen in the company of another officer, however junior, who was improperly dressed.
My cousin didn't want to break King's Regulations and so reluctantly she agreed to put her cap on correctly, hoping that she would not be recognised. Miraculously she got away with it.

London had gone mad with joy. We could scarcely move; people were laughing and crying; screaming and shouting and perfect strangers were kissing and hugging each other. We danced the conga, a popular new import from Latin America; the Lambeth Walk and the hokey-cokey, and at last fought our way back to the Palace, where there was a vast crowd packed to the railings.

In the final installment, Mrs. Rhodes writes about her marriage and that of her cousin.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 6, 2011 8:15 AM.

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