How the Queen lost her heart slow dancing to a show tune from Oklahoma!She set tongues wagging by keeping his picture on her mantelpiece, but Lilibet’s romance with Philip still needed a helping hand from her nanny
02:21 GMT, 22 May 2012
Other men may have done their courting over candlelit dinners, but not Prince Philip. Instead, he turned up at Buckingham Palace — for meals in the old nursery with Lilibet and Margaret.
Just as there was nothing polished about Philip, who often wandered about in his shirtsleeves, so there was nothing fancy about these meals: just fish and some sort of sweet, washed down with orangeade.
After dinner, it would be high-jinks in the corridors as the three of them played ball (a good many lightbulbs suffered) and raced about like a bunch of high-spirited children.
Look of love: Prince Phillip and the-then Princess Elizabeth before they were married when they were just a young couple in love like any other
It wasn’t the most sophisticated of courtships — particularly as Margaret was then a tiresome adolescent who liked attention and was apt to be comically regal.
Philip didn’t put up with any of her nonsense: when she dilly-dallied once outside one of the palace lifts, keeping him waiting, he lost patience and gave her a push.
In short, the budding romance between Philip and Elizabeth wasn’t being helped at all by the constant presence of a demanding little sister.
I decided to give them a hand and dreamed up one excuse after another to call Margaret away to another room.
Did the King and Queen approve I never knew. But like the rest of the royal household, I couldn’t fail but see that Lilibet was in love.
The first time the Princess met Philip, she was just 13. As her governess, I’d accompanied the Royal Family on a private visit to Dartmouth aboard the King’s yacht, the Victoria and Albert.
One Sunday morning, we all went to Dartmouth Royal Naval College, where Elizabeth and Margaret were dropped off to play with some children who had a clockwork railway set.
After a while, a fair-haired boy — rather like a Viking, with piercing blue eyes — entered the room.
After saying ‘How do you do’ to Lilibet, he knelt down beside her to play with the trains. But he soon got bored. ‘Let’s go to the tennis courts and jump the nets,’ he suggested.
At the tennis courts, I thought he showed off, but the girls were impressed. ‘How good he is, Crawfie. How high he can jump!’ said Lilibet.
Indeed, she never took her eyes off him. As for the boy, he was quite polite, but didn’t pay her any special attention — preferring instead to tease plump little Margaret.
Later, we all went back to the yacht for lunch, by which time I’d learned he was Lilibet’s cousin — Prince Philip of Greece. When he joined us for lunch and tea the next day, I noticed he had a voracious appetite — he ate several platefuls of shrimp and a banana split — and he very much enjoyed having all eyes upon him.
To Lilibet, a boy of any kind was a strange creature. She sat pink-faced through both meals, hugely enjoying the novelty of his company.
But, eventually, he left and it was time to sail away. Many of the boys from Dartmouth College followed the yacht out to sea in various small boats — until they all dropped off, except one solitary figure, rowing as hard as he could. It was, of course, Philip.
Just married: The official portrait of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh after their wedding ceremony
Lilibet had a long look at him through binoculars. In the end, the King said: ‘The young fool. He must go back — otherwise we’ll have to heave to and send him back.’
The crew started shouting at him through a megaphone, and at last Philip got the message. We gazed at him until he was just a very small speck in the distance.
The next time I saw him was during the war, when the Princesses were putting on one of their pantomines at Windsor Castle.
‘Who do you think is coming to see us act, Crawfie Philip!’ Lilibet announced.
/05/22/article-2147881-06EC06AD000005DC-557_636x476.jpg” width=”636″ height=”476″ alt=”Slice of history: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) returning by carriage through Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace after the queen's wedding ceremony at Westmionster Abbey” class=”blkBorder” />
Slice of history: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) returning by carriage through Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace after the queen's wedding ceremony at Westmionster Abbey
Shoes left outside doors became inexplicably filled with acorns. Sometimes, Margaret had sudden qualms after she’d gone to bed: ‘Oh, Crawfie, perhaps I shouldn’t have done that. Do go down and take them out.’
Her antics made Lilibet laugh — but they also made her uneasy. I lost count of the number of times I heard her cry out to the Queen ‘Stop her, Mummy. Oh, please stop her,’ when Margaret was being more than usually amusing and outrageous.
But there was soon a distraction for Lilibet. Prince Philip was back from the war. One evening, he had dinner with the Princesses. After that, I noticed, Lilibet began to take more trouble with her appearance, fretting over what to wear. The next day, I’d discover she’d dined with Philip.
I also noticed that she began to play her gramophone more than usual, and that her favourite tune was People Will Say We’re In Love, from the musical Oklahoma! — which she’d seen with Philip.
After he started taking her out, Lilibet would often ask the band at the restaurants where they dined to play the number for her.
They were careful: they rarely danced together and often went out in the company of other young people. Even so, the newspapers began to speculate about a royal romance.
One day, Lilibet, then 19, came back upset after visiting a factory. ‘Crawfie, it was horrible,’ she said. ‘They shouted at me: “Where’s Philip” ’
There was no engagement, and no sign that the King and Queen had any views on the matter. They simply ignored it — to the consternation of older members of the household.
‘If there is not to be an engagement, the boy ought not to be around so much. There is too much talk and speculation,’ one of them said to me.
Margaret knew how Lilibet felt; there were no secrets between them. Once she said to me, very softly: ‘Poor Lil. Nothing of your own. Not even your love affair!’
In the autumn, the King and Queen invited Philip to stay at Balmoral. Was this so older members of the household could get to know him Or to see if Lilibet would tire of him Nothing was said. But Lilibet was aware that some of the King’s advisers didn’t think Philip was good enough for her.
Happy day: Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony. (L-R): King George VI, bridesmaids Princess Margaret Rose and Lady Mary Cambridge, the royal couple, and Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother)
The Royal Family is demanding: the couple were seldom permitted time alone at Balmoral. Philip’s visit dragged on for more than a month, and the general opinion was it hadn’t been much fun for him or Lilibet.
What was really going on, I think, was that neither the King nor the Queen could make up their minds what was best for their daughter, and so postponed making any decision. Lilibet became quiet, her brightness suddenly shadowed.
In September, the palace issued a statement denying the rumours of an engagement. It was also decreed that Elizabeth and her sister would accompany their parents on a trip to South Africa early in 1947.
Prince Philip was not in the party. It was, therefore, a quiet and subdued Princess — now aged 20 — who went about the task of collecting her frocks for the four-month trip. Though Philip was not in London in the run-up to her departure, he rang every evening. I knew the separation would change nothing: when Lilibet gives her love, she gives it once and for all.
From South Africa, she wrote to him constantly. And throughout the trip, she put Philip’s photograph on her dressing table.
When she finally returned, I was horrified to see how thin, pale and drawn she’d become. But her lady-in-waiting said that as their ship steamed into harbour, Lilibet had danced a little jig of sheer delight.
Soon, Philip’s little sports car was again to be seen constantly at the side entrance of the palace.
And at last the day came when he gave Lilibet a diamond ring and the engagement became official.
Meanwhile, I, too, wanted to get married. I wrote to the Queen, asking if she’d see me urgently.
When she granted me an audience, I showed her a photograph of my fianc, saying: ‘This, ma’am, is the urgent personal matter I’ve come to see you about.’
She was surprised and somewhat disconcerted. After I’d told her he was called George Buthlay and came from Aberdeen, she stood for a long time saying nothing at all.
I broke the silence by saying I’d wanted to marry at the start of the war, but hadn’t because it would have been unfair to leave the Princesses when they most needed me. But I wanted a life of my own.
‘Does this mean you are going to leave us’ she asked me. ‘You must see, Crawfie, that it would not be at all convenient. A change for Margaret is not at all desirable.’
What could I do I assured the Queen the last thing George and I wanted to do was upset Their Majesties, so I agreed to carry on living alone at the palace after my wedding.
Bliss: Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in an official wedding photograph
She said nothing further, so I curtsied and withdrew.
George and I were married in Scotland on September 16, 1947. Before the ceremony, the Queen kissed me and wished me happiness, but reiterated: ‘I do hope you won’t think of leaving us just yet. It is going to be such a busy time.’
So, after becoming Mrs Buthlay, I had to leave my husband and return to the palace. We had a rather sad farewell as I left on the night train.
Later, several wedding presents arrived: three bedside lamps from Margaret, a coffee service from Lilibet and a complete dinner service from old Queen Mary.
Meanwhile, hundreds of parcels were pouring in for Lilibet from admirers around the world. For the first time, an old-established convention was broken: she was allowed to keep everything.
For my part, I often felt that some of the priceless heirlooms people sent should have remained in the families where they belonged.
The magnitude of these gifts bewildered Lilibet, who had been simply brought up.
Her idea of a nice birthday or Christmas present had been a Victorian posy, a china ornament or hand-made needle-book. ‘I have so much!’ she exclaimed. ‘Crawfie, you are getting a home together also — you must share some of all this. Make out a list of the things you’ll be needing most.’
This was a godsend. The King had decided to grant me for my lifetime a cottage attached to Kensington Palace, but I couldn’t afford curtains, carpets or furniture.
Lilibet’s grandmother also gave me some useful things — Victorian furniture and some flower prints.
When Queen Mary gave a present, she did it thoroughly. First the pictures were delivered; next came a man to hang them; and finally the old Queen herself arrived, to check the job had been done properly.
And when my boiler broke down, it was Prince Philip himself — with his sailor’s interest in mechanical gadgets — who fiddled with the temperamental hot water system.
All too soon, the royal wedding day was upon us. I went to Lilibet’s room very early, and found her in her dressing gown, peeping excitedly out of the windows at the crowds.
‘I can’t believe it’s really happening, Crawfie,’ she said. ‘I have to keep pinching myself.’
If Lilibet was nervous, she didn’t show it as she came slowly down the aisle on her father’s arm. Her veil was a white cloud about her, and light from the tall windows and the candelabra caught the jewelled embroidery on her dress. Afterwards, there were no long speeches: the King was brevity itself and Philip had just as little to say. Meanwhile, Margaret looked pale, tired and a little sad.
‘Oh, Crawfie, I can’t imagine life here without her,’ she wailed. ‘I will have to behave myself now, won’t I There’s no Lilibet around, to keep me in my place with a sisterly poke.’
Both the King and Queen came to find me later.
‘Well, Crawfie,’ said the King. ‘I think she is happy, don’t you’
I told the Queen that I felt I’d lost a daughter, too. ‘I am sure you do, Crawfie,’ she said.
‘They grow up and leave us, and we must make the best of it.’
Happy families: The wedding group with best man, bridesmaids (including Princess Margaret Rose), right, beside Prince Philip, and the page boys. Lady Mary Cambridge is third from left, Princess Alexandra of Kent, is fourth from left
Crawfie, who was 38 when she married, carried on with her job for a couple more years. Then, having devoted a large part of her life to raising the Princesses, she wrote a chronicle of her 16 years at the heart of the Royal Family.
Publication of the book in 1950 led Queen Elizabeth — later the Queen Mother — to conclude that Crawfie had ‘gone off her head’. Neither the Queen nor the two Princesses ever spoke to her again.
Crawfie retreated to Scotland. After her husband died in 1977, she became lonely and depressed and once even attempted suicide.
Her most treasured possession was a box full of royal photographs, letters, and paintings and poems by the Princesses.
Perhaps as a peace-offering, Crawfie — who died in 1988 — left them all to ‘Lilibet’ in her will.
Adapted from The Little Princesses: The Story Of The Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Crawfie by Marion Crawford, published by Orion as an ebook at 4.49, available for download from all ebook retailers, or in paperback at 8.99.
To order a copy at 7.99 (P&P free), tel: 00843 382 0000.