royals-war

Why the Queen and Princess Margaret were not evacuated during World War II

The then Princess Elizabeth was just 13 when war broke out

Danielle Stacey

While the royal family has cancelled its public engagements in light of the coronavirus outbreak, it's business as usual for the Queen behind closed doors at the palace and she will still hold private audiences. The pandemic could be one of mankind's biggest challenges since the world wars and so, ahead of ITV's documentary Our Queen at War on Wednesday night, we at HELLO! have taken a look back at what Her Majesty and her family did during that time.


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WWII broke out in September 1939 when the then Princess Elizabeth was just 13. It was suggested that she and her younger sister Princess Margaret be evacuated to Canada for their safety, but this idea was rejected by Queen Elizabeth, who later became known as the Queen Mother. She declared: "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." Instead, the Princesses moved to Windsor Castle in 1940, where they spent most of the war years, entertaining staff by putting on pantomimes.

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At the age of 14, Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour to send her best wishes to children who had been evacuated from Britain to America, Canada and elsewhere. She said: "We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place."

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Elizabeth and Margaret give their first broadcast

The King and Queen officially stayed at Buckingham Palace in London during the war but would spend nights with their children in Windsor. The couple narrowly avoided death when the palace was bombed in 1940 during the Blitz, after which the Queen said she felt she "could look the East End in the face". The King and Queen regularly visited badly damaged areas throughout the country after the air raids, as well as hospitals and factories, and met troops.  

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In 1945, Princess Elizabeth became the first female member of the royal family to join the Armed Services as a full-time member, at the age of 19. During her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) she learnt to drive and to maintain vehicles.

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Princess Elizabeth during her time in the ATS

At the end of the war on VE Day, Elizabeth and Margaret secretly mingled with the crowds on the streets of London to celebrate. In 1985, she gave a Radio 4 interview in which she recalled memories of the day, saying: "We cheered the King and Queen on the balcony and then walked miles through the streets. 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."

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