#1Feb 25th, 2006
The Times February 25, 2006
Queen's letters show first flutter of love for Philip
By Andrew Pierce
The handwritten collection charts the course of an old-fashioned royal romance
WARTIME letters from a young Princess Elizabeth reveal for the first time her growing feelings for the dashing naval officer who was to become her husband.
The future Queen renewed a childhood acquaintance with Philip Mountbatten, a member of the Greek Royal Family, during a visit to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth when she was 13.
The letters, written between 1942 and 1948 — when she had become pregnant for the first time — provide a glimpse into an old-fashioned courtship. They are marked with the distinctive initial E and postmarked Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, Glamis Castle and Windsor.
In the correspondence with Diana Bowes-Lyon, a first cousin, bridesmaid of the Queen and niece of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Princess discusses family, friends and the hardships of the war. But it is the first fleeting references to Philip, whom she was to marry in 1947, which will arouse the interest of royal historians when the letters go on sale next month.
The first reference is in a letter from Windsor Castle, dated November 30, 1943, when she was 17. “It’s such fun watching one’s friends getting engaged isn’t it? (not that I wish to get engaged myself! Oh! No!) I am now the proud possessor of a very large photograph of Philip, which stands on the mantelpiece and glowers at me.
“I had to go through a lot of ragging when it arrived, though I admit Mummy said, ‘He is a goodlooking boy’, at which I agreed!“ The letters, part of a lengthy correspondence with Miss Bowes-Lyon, who died 20 years ago, will be sold on March 8 by Dominic Winter Book Auctions in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. The letters have been in private ownership for 30 years and are estimated to sell for £10,000.
In another letter from Balmoral Castle, dated August 17, 1942, the Princess talks about how Margaret Elphinstone (cousin and future bridesmaid) had spent the weekend at Windsor. “It was very unfortunate as Philip came the weekend before. We had great fun and I think he quite enjoyed himself. I hear he is now a Lieutenant, though he seems very young to be one already.”
There is further evidence of the blossoming friendship in a note from Windsor Castle written on November 9, 1943, when she revealed that she had joined a weekend house party at which Philip was a guest.
“I still think he is charming and he is great fun, hardly ever serious but when he is, I think he talks good sense. We had a terrific time on Sunday night, we danced to the gramophone.”
A letter from Glamis Castle in Scotland, the Queen Mother’s home, revealed that she had received two letters from Philip, who by now was a first lieutenant and second-in-command of HMS Wallace after being involved in heavy fighting in the Mediterranean.
The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947. The couple married four months later. The next letter was written from Buckingham Palace in June 1948, when she was pregnant with Prince Charles. The Princess told her cousin: “I am so excited about it, and I can’t really believe it’s true. Unfortunately, Clarence House won’t be ready before the baby arrives, so that will keep me pretty occupied. It’s great fun furnishing and planning the house, but it ’s also very difficult to find anything to go into it.”