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MARGARET RHODES: My captivating youth with the Queen in a long-lost international

Just like the Queen, I as soon as lived in what would become the closing days of a long-lost international of apparently unassailable privilege.

She was once my first cousin, simply ten months more youthful than me. My father, the sixteenth Lord Elphinstone, were born in 1869, precisely midway via Queen Victoria’s lengthy reign. My mom was once the Queen Mom’s sister.

Princess Elizabeth and I have been within the closing era of ladies from households like ours, who didn’t pass to college however have been skilled at house by way of governesses. And we have been roughly introduced up in combination.

We’d have annual summer time vacations at Birkhall, a big area at the Balmoral property. Along with her folks, then the Duke and Duchess of York, Elizabeth would additionally come for visits to Carberry Tower, my circle of relatives seat close to Edinburgh.

Even within the Nineteen Thirties, my mom was once nonetheless receiving the prepare dinner each morning to speak about the day’s menus.

The massive group of workers ate in two separate eating rooms — one reserved for the senior participants such because the butler, housekeeper, girls’ maid and the pinnacle housemaid.

The nice partners (from left): Margaret with Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth. Just like the Queen, I as soon as lived in what would become the closing days of a long-lost international of apparently unassailable privilege. She was once my first cousin, simply ten months more youthful than me

The opposite was once for the 3 housemaids, a footman, a kitchen maid, a scullery maid, a area boy, an odd-job guy, and a relic of a bygone age known as the ‘still-room’ maid. One among her duties was once to make our porridge, which she brewed in a single day in the old fashioned Scots approach.

Visits from the Yorks have been at all times slightly light-hearted. Certainly, Elizabeth, her sister Margaret and I have been stunned at one of the lovely unusual and boisterous video games performed by way of the adults, reminiscent of one known as ‘Are you there, Moriarty?’

This entailed prominent guests rolling spherical at the flooring and being overwhelmed spherical the pinnacle with cushions or newspapers rolled into batons.

As for us, we have been raised to consider that it was once definitely immoral to stick indoors, irrespective of the elements. One needed to get out of doors and do one thing helpful: chop wooden, make a bonfire, pull out ivy, weed the lawn or opt for a bracing stroll.

The kids of a close-by circle of relatives who lolled round all day studying magazines and novels have been cited as examples of degeneracy. We have been taught to mention prayers each night time and continuously attended church. At the opposite facet of the coin, we have been susceptible to cracking disgusting lavatorial jokes, however by no means, ever, any of a sexual nature.

The royal sisters and their friend in a tug o’war. Using our imaginations, we were easily amused. Another game we played was called ‘catching happy days’, which involved catching the leaves falling from the trees

The royal sisters and their pal in a tug o’struggle. The usage of our imaginations, we have been simply amused. Every other sport we performed was once known as ‘catching glad days’, which concerned catching the leaves falling from the bushes

My recollections of the York circle of relatives return to when I used to be about 5, with my visits to Birkhall, the 18th-century area in Scotland lent to them by way of George V for his or her summer time and early autumn vacations. It was once there I had the best a laugh of the entire 12 months.

The lawn descended steeply to the River Muick, and from time to time Elizabeth, Margaret and I’d picnic there on an island.

I take into account a slightly sick-making contest to look what number of slices of brown bread and golden syrup lets consume. My document was once 12 slices and I at all times received conveniently. Princess Elizabeth and I perpetually cavorted as horses, which was once her thought. We galloped spherical and spherical. We have been horses of each sort: carthorses, racehorses, and circus horses — and it was once mandatory to neigh.

The usage of our imaginations, we have been simply amused. Every other sport we performed was once known as ‘catching glad days’, which concerned catching the leaves falling from the bushes.

We additionally had a gramophone and only one document, both Land Of Hope And Glory or Jerusalem — I will be able to’t take into account which, however we performed it always.

At night time, Queen Elizabeth and the King — who was once my godfather — would at all times come as much as the nursery, regardless of how busy they have been, to tuck up their daughters and kiss them goodnight.

I had the bed room subsequent door to Margaret, and the partitions have been skinny. She used to stay me conscious at night time making a song Outdated Macdonald Had A Farm, which works on and on with its chorus of animal noises.

Every other indelible reminiscence considerations Grand Duchess Xenia — sister of the Tsar of Russia and one of the crucial few survivors after her circle of relatives was once murdered in 1918 by way of the Bolsheviks. Every time the princesses and I handed the home the place she was once staying at the Balmoral property, we’d destroy into the Volga boat track, a conventional Russian folks quantity related to the peasant barge-haulers at the mighty Volga river.

We idea our serenade would remind her of her native land; however taking into account her tragic stories all over the revolution, our behaviour was once most likely not up to delicate.

On the town: Margaret and her cousin Elizabeth wearing pearls and orchids at London’s Bagatelle restaurant in 1946

In town: Margaret and her cousin Elizabeth dressed in pearls and orchids at London’s Bagatelle eating place in 1946

At the day the abdication of Edward VIII was once introduced, I used to be attending a dancing lesson in Edinburgh. To my everlasting disgrace, I hopped across the room, chanting: ‘My uncle Bertie goes to be King!’

Princess Elizabeth turned into Heiress Presumptive. I consider she was hoping she would possibly sooner or later have slightly brother and be let off the hook. However deep down, she knew that wasn’t very most likely. In 1939, the closing August of peace sooner than Global Battle II, I used to be dispatched to Birkhall as same old to stay the princesses corporate.

On Sunday, September 3, we 3 women — I used to be then elderly 14, Elizabeth 13, and Margaret, 9 — have been in church when Britain declared struggle. The minister, a small, spare guy known as Dr Lamb, preached a extremely emotional sermon, telling us that the uneasy peace that had prevailed for the reason that finish of Global Battle I used to be now over.

It gave the impression unreal, but it was once unimaginable to not dream of journey and derring-do. We have been so totally ignorant about the real horrors of struggle.

Our regimen persisted. Each night time at six, the King and Queen — who have been in London — would phone and make contact with their daughters. We did courses; rode our ponies, went on picnics, all of the same old issues. Then the week sooner than Christmas, my aunt telephoned to mention it was once secure for the princesses to visit Sandringham in Norfolk, and I returned to Carberry.

In 1942, whilst I used to be attending school to be informed shorthand and typing, I stayed with the princesses at Windsor Fort. There, a hand-picked frame of officials and males from the Brigade of Guards and the Family Cavalry, provided with armoured vehicles, was once on 24-hour name to take the Royal Circle of relatives to a secure area within the nation, must the German risk of invasion materialise.

It was once a comforting idea —till I discovered that even though the operation most likely incorporated the corgis, it didn’t come with me.

Windsor Fort was once a bit of bleak in the ones days. Heavy blackout curtains made the rooms glance gloomy and the furnishings was once shrouded in mud covers.

With a purpose to save on important provides, we have been simplest allowed 3 inches of water within the tub — so the King commanded {that a} black line be painted as a kind of Plimsoll line.

A relaxed lunch together at Balmoral. Having known Elizabeth from a very young age, I’d always been aware of what a special person she was. The nation has cause to be grateful. I certainly am

A at ease lunch in combination at Balmoral. Having recognized Elizabeth from an excessively younger age, I’d at all times been acutely aware of what a distinct particular person she was once. The country has motive to be thankful. I indubitably am

Frequently there have been air raids, and the Web page would are available, bow, and announce: ‘Crimson caution, Your Majesty’, the sign that the Luftwaffe was once zooming in. I take into account one in particular heavy assault once we all needed to pass to the refuge.

Roused in the course of the night time, we have been first taken to my aunt and uncle’s bed room, the place I noticed the King take a revolver from the drawer of his bedside desk. It was once a defensive precaution, in case of an enemy parachute drop.

I do know, too, that Queen Elizabeth practised revolver-shooting within the lawn of Buckingham Palace, in particular after the Palace was once bombed. Large numbers of rats have been unexpectedly operating unfastened, so she was once ready to check out her intention on transferring objectives.

However again to the night time of the assault … We walked what gave the impression of miles, down into the bowels of the fortress. Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, completely refused to be moved quickly, regardless of the efforts of courtiers to influence her.

It was once a symbolic gesture, typifying her perspective to Nazi aggression. The Fuhrer was once no longer going to drive her tempo.

I’ve many recollections of my sojourn at Windsor, and the comings and goings of essential figures within the struggle effort. I in particular take into account one summer time afternoon when I used to be having tea with the King, Queen and princesses on a small terrace overlooking the fortress rose lawn.

, we heard male voices. The King exclaimed: ‘Oh Lord. Common Eisenhower and his team are being proven around the fortress. I rather forgot. We will be able to all be in complete view after they flip the following nook.’

This was once embarrassing since the little terrace was once half-way up the fortress wall, so we’d be in complete view of the guests, whilst too a long way away to keep in touch with them by any means. Thus with out any other phrase, and performing as one, the Royal Circle of relatives dived underneath the lengthy white tablecloth. I adopted speedy.

If Eisenhower had seemed up, he would have noticed a desk shaking from the impact of the uncontrollable giggles of the ones sheltering underneath it. Years later, on a state consult with to The usa, the prevailing Queen confessed what we’d carried out to President Eisenhower. He idea it very humorous.

In spite of the struggle, the King and Queen have been completely glorious at making lifestyles a laugh for his or her daughters and their visitors. There was once a sport known as ‘kick the tin’, typically performed after tea.

All of the guests, on the other hand grand, had to participate. It concerned an excessive amount of operating, mountaineering out and in of home windows and normally inflicting mayhem. I take into account looking at Sir Samuel Hoare, the Lord Privy Seal, being made to run just like the satan and turning into very popular, stricken and puzzled. Queen Elizabeth was once very persuasive.

Later within the struggle, for a now forgotten explanation why, I discovered myself running in MI6 as a small cog within the shadowy international of espionage.

Full of fun: From left, Margaret Rhodes (then Elphinstone) and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret watching as the grown-ups play ‘Are you there, Moriarty?'

Filled with a laugh: From left, Margaret Rhodes (then Elphinstone) and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret looking at because the grown-ups play ‘Are you there, Moriarty?’

One among my day by day duties, at 18, was once to learn each unmarried message despatched by way of our spies world wide.

With my brother, Andrew, I lived at Buckingham Palace as a lodger. We had a bed room every, a sitting room and toilet and a housemaid’s pantry as our kitchen.

Our nice culinary strong point was once a stockpot, stored going for months on finish, into which we’d pop entire pigeons. I believe Trafalgar Sq. was once slightly depleted.

As soon as, we invited the King and Queen to dinner — and their horrified group of workers was once satisfied that their Majesties would succumb to meals poisoning. The King’s Web page was once in particular distressed on the thought of the King slumming it in his personal palace.

Elderly 20 in 1945, I used to be nonetheless within the palace for VE Day. That night time, a gang of about 16 people — together with the 2 princesses and my eldest brother, John, who’d been a prisoner of struggle — got permission by way of the King and Queen to slide away and sign up for the rejoicing crowds at the streets.

This type of freedom was once exceptional, so far as my cousins have been involved. As a subaltern within the Auxiliary Territorial Provider (ATS), Princess Elizabeth was once in uniform, so pulled her peaked cap smartly all the way down to cover herself.

Alternatively, a Grenadier in our birthday party adamantly refused to be noticed within the corporate of any other officer, on the other hand junior, who was once improperly dressed. Reluctantly, my cousin agreed to position her cap on as it should be, hoping that she wouldn’t be recognised. Miraculously, she were given away with it.

London had long past mad with pleasure. Lets scarcely transfer; folks have been guffawing and crying, screaming and shouting, and absolute best strangers have been kissing and hugging every different.

We danced the Conga, the Lambeth Stroll and the Hokey Cokey, and finally fought our as far back as the Palace, the place there was once an infinite crowd packed proper as much as the railings.

Suffering to the entrance, we joined within the yells of: ‘We wish the King; we would like the Queen’.

Prior to lengthy, the double doorways main onto the balcony have been thrown open and the King and Queen got here out, to be greeted by way of a emerging crescendo of cheers — to which their daughters and I contributed. It was once the grand finale to an unforgettable day. I assume that for the princesses, it was once a Cinderella second in opposite, during which they may faux they have been bizarre and unknown.

I couldn’t recall precisely what we were given as much as on VJ Day — victory over Japan — so the Queen equipped me with a few of her diary entries from that point.

She begins on Would possibly 6, 1945: ‘Heard that John and George unfastened and secure!’ The exclamation mark most likely expresses her excitement on the go back from captivity of my brother John and her paternal cousin, Viscount Lascelles.

On VE Day, Would possibly 8, she writes: ‘PM introduced unconditional give up. 16 people went out in crowd, cheered folks on balcony. Up St J’s St, Piccadilly, nice a laugh.’

The next day’s access data: ‘Out in crowd once more — Trafalgar Sq., Piccadilly, Pall Mall, walked merely miles. Noticed folks on balcony at 12.30 am — ate, partied, mattress 3 am!’

August 14 — after the scoop got here that Japan had agreed to give up — activates this access: ‘Out in crowd, Whitehall, Mall, St J St, Piccadilly, Park Lane, Charter Hill, ran via Ritz. Walked miles, drank in Dorchester, noticed folks two times, miles away, such a lot of folks.’

On the town: Margaret and her cousin Elizabeth wearing pearls and orchids at London’s Bagatelle restaurant in 1946

In town: Margaret and her cousin Elizabeth dressed in pearls and orchids at London’s Bagatelle eating place in 1946

And in spite of everything, on August 16, the day after VJ Day: ‘Out in crowd once more. Embankment, Piccadilly. Rained, so fewer folks.

‘Congered into area [a reference to Buckingham Palace and that rather wild dance] … Sang until 2 am. Mattress at 3 am!’

My cousins have been clearly having the time in their lives. After they returned to Windsor Fort, to which I made occasional forays, the Queen organized slightly extra sedate small dances for her daughters, attended by way of younger Guards’ officials.

Queen Mary, slightly wryly, known as those boys ‘the bodyguard’. Princess Elizabeth dutifully waltzed, foxtrotted and quick-stepped, and engaged her companions in small communicate, however she was once looking ahead to one guy to return house from the struggle. She’d been enamoured of Prince Philip of Greece from an early age.

I’ve letters from her pronouncing: ‘It’s so thrilling. Mummy says that Philip can come and keep when he will get depart.’

She by no means checked out any individual else; she was once really in love from the very starting.

The marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten in 1947 brightened our austerity-ridden post-war international.

This time, I used to be at the Palace balcony myself, as a bridesmaid, status between Princess Margaret and any other cousin, Diana Bowes-Lyon, watching down at the crowds, who from that distance gave the impression Lilliputian.

In 1950, I used to be married myself, to an excessively horny pauper known as Denys Rhodes. (We might are living in Devon on my personal source of revenue of £3,000 a 12 months). The King and Queen got here to our marriage ceremony, and Margaret was once one of the crucial bridesmaids, however Elizabeth was once absent as she was once because of give start to her 2nd kid.

She wrote to me on my marriage ceremony morning, pronouncing: ‘I will be able to’t actually want you any larger happiness than I’ve discovered myself in being married.’

Denys and I beloved our house in Devon, which had six bedrooms and a small flat for the married couple who cooked, wiped clean and did the gardening.

Lifetime of friendship: Bridesmaid Margaret (top, far left) on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the Queen’s 1947 wedding to Prince Philip

Life of friendship: Bridesmaid Margaret (best, a long way left) at the Buckingham Palace balcony after the Queen’s 1947 marriage ceremony to Prince Philip

It was once a perfectly enjoyable atmosphere and no person looked as if it would thoughts if I went buying groceries with my hair in rollers and a cigarette clenched between my tooth.

When the Queen, Queen Mom and Princess Margaret got here for the weekend, every of them post their detectives within the native pub.

Within the night time, we performed ‘The Recreation’, with one particular person performing out the name of a e book, a pronouncing or a track which needed to be guessed by way of the others.

Memorably, one of the crucial different visitors, David Stirling — who was once chargeable for the putting in of what later turned into the SAS — was once advised to behave The Taming Of The Shrew, which concerned this immensely tall guy pretending to be a mouse operating up the Queen’s skirts. We cried with laughter.

In 1981, my husband was once identified with lung most cancers and given little greater than a 12 months to are living. In need of to transport nearer to London, we checked out quite a lot of homes to hire however they have been all a lot too pricey. Then, one morning, I used to be out using with the Queen at the Balmoral property when she unexpectedly grew to become within the saddle and mentioned: ‘May just you undergo to are living in suburbia?’

It transpired that she was once providing us a area within the Nice Park at Windsor, only a brief force from the fortress.

Ten years after Denys’s dying, in 1991, I turned into a Girl of the Bedchamber to my aunt. Within the Queen Mom’s ultimate weeks, I went to Royal Hotel each day, and had lunch together with her on a card desk within the drawing room.

On March 30, 2002, I went instantly as much as her bed room and located the Queen beside her, dressed in using garments. She’d been alerted whilst using within the Park that her mom was once slipping away.

Princess Margaret’s kids joined us. We stood across the mattress, with tears in our eyes, whilst the parish priest of the Royal Chapel mentioned the prayer: ‘Now lettest thou thy servant leave in peace.’ Queen Elizabeth died at 3.15pm.

Returning house quickly afterwards, I used to be very touched when Princess Margaret’s son David Linley telephoned to mention that the Queen sought after me to spend the night time on the fortress. That night time handed in slightly a blur. We had dinner and mentioned roughly standard issues. We went to mattress rather early, and subsequent morning attended communion within the fortress chapel.

Existence went on. Now and again, on Sundays after Matins in our little chapel, the Queen would drop in on me and we’d trade the newest information.

Having recognized Elizabeth from an excessively younger age, I’d at all times been acutely aware of what a distinct particular person she was once. The country has motive to be thankful. I indubitably am.

Tailored from The Ultimate Curtsey: A Royal Memoir by way of the Queen’s Cousin by way of Margaret Rhodes, printed by way of Birlinn at £9.99. © Margaret Rhodes 2012. 

To reserve a duplicate for £8.49 (be offering legitimate to 23/09/22; UK P&P unfastened on orders over £20), consult with www.mailshop.co.united kingdom/books or name 020 3176 2937.

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