Simanaitis Says

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WHAT WITH her kids, and more recently her grandkids, Queen Elizabeth II has had her share of annis horribilis. More than three decades ago, royal biographer Elizabeth Longford edited The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about Elizabeth II’s majestic personage, gleaned from this book together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes, edited by Elizabeth Longford, Oxford University Press, 1989.

In the Epilogue of The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes, Elizabeth Longford writes, “The hushed abdication broadcast from Windsor Castle has replaced the crunch of the axe on Tower Green. Even anthologists can have no regrets.”

Elizabeth II, London-born 1926, reigning since 1952, longest lived and longest reigning British monarch. Elizabeth II is the fourth monarch of the House of Windsor, the name changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1917. Image by Joel Rouse (Ministry of Defence) and nagualdesign.

Uncle David’s Abdication. On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in favor of “the help and support of the woman I love.” His niece Princess Elizabeth was 10 at the time.

Princess Elizabeth. Portrait by Philip de László, 1933.

As Longford relates, the Princess learned from a footman that “uncle David had abdicated and Papa was King. Up the stairs she flew to tell Margaret the news.”

“ ‘Does that mean that you will have to be the next Queen?’ asked the younger sister.”

“ ‘Yes, some day,’ replied Lilibet.”

“ ‘Poor you,’ said Margaret.”

Lilibet’s Stint in the ATS. Princess Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945. Longford writes of her being trained as a transport driver.

Princess Elizabeth as an ATS mechanic and driver. Image from

Years later, Queen Elizabeth held a private reunion with other ATS women who, Longford writes, “remembered her as 2nd Subaltern No 230873, a 19-year-old who had never driven before and, in the early days, stalled her heavy transport on Windsor Hill.”

“ ‘What d’yer think you’re doing’ demanded a policeman, not recognizing her in the driver seat of the truck she had stranded broadside. ‘I couldn’t tell him because I didn’t know!’ the Queen laughed.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll have brief encounters with Elizabeth I, a more recent Archbishop of Canterbury, a couple of Prime Ministers, and other loyal subjects. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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