1943 Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret playing Aladdin and Princess Roxana in home-made outfits
The silk tunic and silk-satin embroidered trousers made up for the pantomime costume that the Queen wore as a teenager when she appeared as Aladdin at Windsor Castle in a wartime performance have never been displayed before.
They are among more than 30 outfits representing key moments in the Queen’s life that are to go on show at an exhibition Fashioning a Reign held at the castle. See previous BLOG POST
Princess Margaret’s crimson outfit as Princess Roxana in Aladdin, Princess Elizabeth’s jacket, jodhpurs and hat, made for her by the equestrian and livery tailors Bernard Weatherill in 1947, and the tunic worn by “the emperor” in the pantomime
There is a love story behind the Queen’s teenage costumes. Prince Philip of Greece, then a young naval officer, came to see the performance of Aladdin, causing the 17 year old Elizabeth’s heart to beat a little faster.
The princess, pink cheeked with excitement, apparently told Marion Crawford, her governess: “Who do you think is coming to see us act, Crawfie? Philip!”
“The pantomime went off very well,” Miss Crawford recorded. “I have never known Lilibet more animated. There was a sparkle about her none of us had ever seen before.”
Basil Boothroyd, the Duke of Edinburgh’s biographer, described “the young naval gentleman from Greece rolling in the aisles at the appalling jokes”.
It is hard to imagine the Queen cross-dressing as Aladdin and Prince Charming, and belting out show tunes. However for four consecutive Christmases Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose staged a series of musical pantomimes to liven up their war-time evacuation to Windsor Castle.
They were loosely based on traditional fairytales – Cinderella (1941), Sleeping Beauty (1942), Aladdin (1943) and Old Mother Red Riding Boots (1944).
They grew from the Princesses’ love of dressing up and dancing and Princess Margaret’s particular gift for mimicry.” They listened avidly to radio comedies (Tommy Handley’s ITMA was a favourite) and quizzed their parents about the latest London theatre tunes and jokes.
Budgets were carefully balanced as the shows supported the Palace Wool Fund and the sisters enjoyed “hunting for junk” around the castle with their father, King George VI. Old curtains, boards and furniture were stitched and hammered and painted to create costumes and sets, transforming the stately Waterloo Chamber into a 400 seat private theatre.
The cast was picked from cousins, the local village school, other evacuees and officers’ children – but Castle staff was also enlisted to help backstage, with even Queen Elizabeth ready with a needle to sew repairs.
It was Princess Margaret who first suggested a panto and school head Hubert Tannar was invited to write the script and produce the first show in December 1941.
Cyril Woods was of similar age to the princesses and was recruited as star pupil at the school to appear with them. He took part in all four pantos, which were all written and produced by Mr Tannar who also acted in the first and last ones.
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