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The Queen: How Princess Elizabeth celebrated VE Day unnoticed among the crowds on the streets of London

The Queen made a special televised address to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day in 2020

Sabrina Barr
Sunday 14 June 2020 08:23 BST
Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day, 8 May 1945
Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day, 8 May 1945 (Rex Features)

On 8 May 1945, the world rejoiced as the Second World War came to an end after six years of fighting, hardship and loss.

People took to the streets to celebrate VE Day, otherwise known as Victory in Europe Day, commemorating the day on which the allied forces announced the surrender of Nazi Germany.

In London, thousands of revellers flooded Trafalgar Square and the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace where the King and Queen greeted them from the balcony.

Unbeknownst to the majority of the public, 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth and 14-year-old Princess Margaret were hidden in plain sight among the crowds, letting their hair down as they joined in with the jubilant festivities.

Friday 8 May 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day. To commemorate the day, Queen Elizabeth II made a special televised address which was ared on BBC One.

How did Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret celebrate VE Day in 1945?

On VE Day 77 years ago, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony on six occasions throughout the day alongside their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

However, the teenagers wished to also celebrate outside the Palace gates, which they did after the younger of the two proposed the idea.

Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day, 8 May 1945 (Rex Features)

After dinner, the princesses left the Palace to partake in the celebrations, with the permission of the King and Queen.

They were joined by a group of Guards officers who were friends with the young royals.

While the monarch may have felt worried about his daughters becoming immersed in the crowds, in a diary entry written on the day he expressed care for their limited social lives, stating: “Poor darlings, they have never had any fun yet.”

The princesses made the most of their freedom, doing the hokey cokey, the “Lambeth Walk” and the conga with members of the public.

VE Day celebrations in the East End of London, 8 May 1945 (PA/PA Wire)

Did anyone take notice of the young princesses?

In 2006, Jean Woodroffe, who was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s first ladies in waiting, recalled no one “appeared to take much notice” of the royal sisters as they partook in the revelry of the day.

“What was amusing is that we went into the Ritz hotel through one door and out of the other, the other end, doing the conga,” Ms Woodroffe told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“The extraordinary thing was that nobody seemed to take much notice. Then we stood outside Buckingham Palace with the crowd and we all shouted, ‘We want the King’ with everybody else until the King and Queen came out onto the balcony.”

Crowds gather in London's Trafalgar Square to celebrate the end of the Second World War, 8 May 1945 (PA/PA Wire)

Princess Elizabeth wore her Auxiliary Transport Service uniform on VE Day, having joined the armed forces in February that year.

The late monarch told the BBC in 1985 that she tried to avoid being spotted on the streets of the capital, stating: “I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes”.

“I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, and all of us were swept along by tides of happiness and relief,” the Queen said.

In 2015, a dramatisation of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s VE Day celebrations was released in the form of a feature film titled A Royal Night Out.

Sarah Gadon, who portrayed the future Queen, said she liked the description of the tale as “a Cinderella story in reverse”.

“It wasn’t about putting on this dress and becoming a princess. It was becoming a part of the crowd and what that meant to somebody who wanted to feel normal for a night,” the actor said.

Follow the latest updates following the death of Queen Elizabeth II here

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