Sheffield teenager's WW2 diary reveals fascinating glimpse of future Queen

Diaries belonging to a Sheffield teenager who spent World War Two on lockdown with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret reveal a fascinating glimpse of the future queen.

Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 6:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 6:57 pm

Sheffield born Alathea Fitzalan Howard, part of the British peerage, kept a journal of her six year stint in Windsor where she struck up a friendship with the two young princesses.

Now her unseen diaries from the era are to be published later this year – providing some revealing insights into the Royal Family during wartime.

The diaries begin on the eve of her arrival there on January 1, 1940 – and reveal how the future Queen enjoyed washing up but loathed needlework, and kept a pet chameleon which she and her sister fed on a diet of flies, reports The Telegraph.

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The book will be published by Hodder and Stoughton this autumn.

Alathea was born in 1923 to Henry Fitzalan-Howard, later 2nd Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent, and his wife Joyce Langdale.

The aristocratic family's royal connection was through their relation to the Dukes of Norfolk's hereditary appointment as Earl Marshall, responsible for organising significant ceremonial events including coronations and royal funerals.

She was sent there at the outbreak of WWII – and the diaries paint an idyllic picture of days spent drinking ginger beer 'from the bottle', punting along the river and staging festive productions, in which Elizabeth and Margaret played the starring roles - with the future queen always taking the principal boy part.

Alathea enjoyed drawing, cookery and dancing lessons with the royal sisters, though her academic classes were taught separately.

She affectionately referred to the future queen as 'L', short for Lilibet, and described her as 'v matter of fact, uncurious and above all untemperamental'.

In between lessons, the girls enjoyed riding and lunches served by the nursery footman Cyril Dickman - and often dined outside on sunny days.

Writing about her time spent within the royal household, she wrote in capital letters for emphasis: 'I am REALLY HAPPY WITH THEM ALL.'

Alathea discussed making bread pudding while Princess Elizabeth perfected her shortbread recipe, and talked about the royal sisters using nets to protect their homegrown vegetables in the garden from rabbits.

Alathea began her journals on New Year's Eve in 1939, shortly after her 16th birthday, and continued writing them until her death in 2001, aged 77, by which point she'd penned 64 volumes.

This autumn extracts will be published for the first time in a book entitled The Windsor Diaries 1940-45.

After leaving Windsor, Alathea remained a close friend of the Queen, attending her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947 - six years before her own nuptials to the Hon. Edward Ward.

The couple moved to Lausanne, but had no children.

She left her precious diaries, along with an archive of letters, photographs and invitations, to her nephew Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland's wife, Lady Isabella Naylor-Leyland.

The Windsor Diaries 1940-45, by Alathea Fitzalan Howard, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in October 2020.