Alathea Fitzalan Howard was a moody teen aristocrat when, on the outset of World Warfare II, her socialite mom despatched her to reside together with her stuffy grandfather and dreary aunt in Windsor Nice Park, outdoors of London. Luckily, 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 lessons 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 printed quantity spans 1940 to 1945, when she was 16 to 21 years previous, and presents an enchanting glimpse of the candy, easy, considerably awkward younger woman who would turn into Queen Elizabeth II.
“She’s essentially the most ungossipy individual I do know,” Alathea wrote, considerably disillusioned, about her new BFF, who was two years her junior. “Placid and unemotional, she by no means needs what doesn’t come her means.”
She then added, “Margaret is way and away extra the kind I would love for the long run 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 recurrently visiting the fort for enjoyable and video games: enjoying playing cards, taking ballet and dance, staging elaborate pageants (Elizabeth all the time received caught enjoying the boy), and — shockingly — “spitting over a bridge right into a stream attempting to hit leaves as they floated by.”
She additionally spent lots of time with their mother and father, 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 continually battle together with her locks, similar to when the 15-year-old princess received 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 retain a secret?” a 14-year-old Elizabeth requested Alathea earlier than admitting that Philip was her “boy.”
“[Lilibet] says she cuts [his] pictures 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 long run queen “danced around the room with it for pleasure!”)
Nonetheless, Elizabeth had different romantic crushes. Each she and Alathea swooned over the dashing Hugh Euston (11th duke of Grafton), and the princess revealed she was “jealous” after Alathea danced with him at a ball. She even stole a chunk of paper along with his handwriting on it, which she hid in a drawer. Earlier than events, she and Alathea would examine the listing of boys who could be attending.
Elizabeth was, Alathea wrote, “tremendously energetic at dances infrequently sitting down in any respect, and that is as a lot as a consequence of her concern of disappointing the various younger males who come up in rows to ask her.” She typically danced until 4 a.m., Alathea wrote.
However Alathea typically scoffed on the “Royal Household’s easy tastes.” She thought their fascination with making their canine leap over nets “boring,” complained about their lowbrow style in movies (although she by no means refused their invitation to the cinema), and ridiculed their vogue sense.
“Their garments have gone down so much because the struggle,” she wrote after noting the princesses’ shabby brown test skirts and “Aertex shirts,” which she later referred to as “peculiar.” Elsewhere Alathea talked about Elizabeth’s “puffy face” and “huge chest.”
By the top 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’s, 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 mentioned she puzzled if she’d ever marry,” wrote Alathea. “And she or he mentioned if she actually wished to marry somebody she’d run away, however I knew she wouldn’t actually — her sense of responsibility is simply too robust although she’s suited to an easier life.”
In that second, Elizabeth revealed a “new Lilibet”: “I noticed behind the outward calm and matter-of-factness into one thing lovable and honest — I knew this facet of her would fade with daylight, however it’s one I shall always remember.”