She was decorated as the staunch, resilient Queen Elizabeth II for longer than many of us have lived, but once upon a time, the British monarch was a young Princess brimming with energy.
The then Princess Elizabeth was born to the Duke and Duchess of York on April 21, 1926. At the time, nobody knew she would become Queen. She was third in line to the throne behind her uncle, who became King Edward VIII, and her father, George.
But in 1936, everything changed. Aged just 10 years old, the Queen became heir presumptive after her uncle abdicated the throne. Her father became King George VI, and suddenly, Elizabeth found herself thrust into private tuition classes, along with special lessons where she learned the ins and outs of being a monarch.
But Elizabeth’s early life wasn’t confined to small rooms and endless pages of constitutional history. She was given some allowances in an attempt to provide her some of the normalities of youth—and according to the photographs snapped of the royal over the years, she really made the most of it.
As we mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth on September 8, we look back at the best, and most candid snaps of the royal from when she was young.
The Princess was born in April 1926 to the Duke and Duchess of York—she was nicknamed ‘Lilibet’ by her close family, which was how the young royal pronounced her name.
At first, the young princess was never expected to become a queen, but it’s been said that even as a child, Elizabeth had a sense of orderliness and responsibility.
At age 10, the Princess’ world was thrown upside down when her uncle abdicated the throne. She immediately began private tuition (away from her younger sister, Margaret) in an effort to prepare for the day she would become Queen.
It was a lot for a young child to take in, so Elizabeth was given some allowances in an attempt to provide her with some normalities of youth—including a special Girl Guides company being set up under Buckingham Palace which allowed her to socialise with girls her own age. The future Queen also enrolled as a sea ranger.
As she reached her twenties, Britain was in full-scale war, and Elizabeth was appointed as an honorary second subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was ranked an honorary junior commander and trained as a driver and mechanic. As the war came to an end, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margret, joined the crowds who gathered to celebrate on the streets.
“I remember we were terrified of being recognised… 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,” Elizabeth previously said.
The post-war period in the late 1940s was a time of celebration and freedom—and the future Queen, then in her early 20s, embraced that wholeheartedly.
Here, a rare photo of the Princess in colour, in 1947. Even then, her outfits and jewellery (as well as her public statements) were carefully curated.
The Princess’ romance with Prince Philip began when she was just 13 years old. By the time she was 21, it was clear she’d met her soulmate for life. The pair announced their engagement in 1947.
The pair married later that year—for the occasion, she wore a stunning gown by Norman Hartnell.
When her father, George VI died in 1952, the Princess immediately became the Queen of England aged 26, thus beginning a new (70 year-long) chapter.
While the Queen retained her charisma and vibrancy until her final appearance in 2022, there’s something about her youthful, vivacity in these old images that show another, liberated side to the Monarch. Of course, perhaps it’s been there all along, but she kept it hidden for only those closest to see.
For more rolling coverage on Queen Elizabeth II’s death, follow the links below:
- Queen Elizabeth II Has Died: A Look Back At Her History Making Tenure
- Here’s What Happens Next In The Wake Of The Queen’s Passing
- Here’s Why Reporters Changed Into Black Outfits Before Announcing Queen Elizabeth II’s Death
- A Brief History Of Queen Elizabeth II And Her 89 Year Long Royal Clan Of Corgis
- Will Duchess Camilla Be Queen Now That Charles Is King?
- Every Time The Royal Family Have Turned To Queen Elizabeth’s Vintage Wardrobe
- The Surprising Reason The Queen Always Wore Mint Green For Special Occasions
- What Will Kate Middleton’s Title Be Now That Queen Elizabeth II Has Died?
- Everything We Know About The Queen’s Funeral So Far