A Friend's Diary Reveals What Life Was Like For Queen Elizabeth II During WWII

For anyone born after 1945, wrapping their heads around the realities of World War II can be difficult: the horror just seems too much to comprehend. But for those who were alive during this grim period, the memories are all too real. And that was very much the case for Queen Elizabeth II, who was 13 years old when the war began. It was suggested that she and and her sister, Margaret, be evacuated to Canada to escape the bombings. Her mother rejected this idea, famously stating, “The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave.” So they stayed in Britain. A friend who went to live with the princesses during this time kept a diary, and it gives a fascinating insight into what the future queen went through.

The Windsor Diaries

The friend in question here is Alathea Fitzalan Howard, who spent some of her teenage years in the company of Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret. Alathea went through a lot with these two, and she documented some of those episodes in her diary. After she died, her niece, Isabella Naylor-Leyland, published those entries in the form of a book called The Windsor Diaries.

A close bond between them

Alathea was a little older than the princesses. She had three years on Elizabeth, who, in turn, was four years older than her sister Margaret. But despite the age gap between them all, the young women seemed to share a close bond. In fact, the royals even let Alathea in on some of their biggest secrets!

A typical teenage friendship

In 2021 Alathea’s niece, Isabella, had a conversation with Town & Country magazine when she was promoting The Windsor Diaries. She spoke about her aunt’s relationship with Elizabeth, noting how their ages definitely played its part in how they had interacted with each other. She said, “I think with the Queen, it was a sort of a typical teenage friendship, and they would laugh and giggle and enjoy each other’s company and didn’t discuss anything too serious.”

The naughty one

Speaking of Margaret, Isabella said, “Princess Margaret was the sort of naughty one. And I think Alathea adored her, really, and admired her spirit. And, unwittingly, she often wishes that Lilibet, as [Elizabeth] was called at the time, had more of her sister’s spark, but, of course, we all know that it’s extremely lucky that she didn’t and that she was a much more steady character.”