I have found myself a bit emotional at times in the past weeks, since the announcement was made that the Queen had died . She had been monarch for my entire life – my parents’ entire lives – forever, or so it felt. She was a constant presence even for those who never met her. And although I have never met any of the remaining royal family members, I nonetheless was moved by their obvious grief.
Although I am not an ardent royalist (there is certainly room for reform in the system) I have always been quite fascinated by the royal family – a lot of people are. It’s a life very far removed from anything most of us can imagine.
I have enjoyed seeing stories recently about how the Queen terrified a Saudi Prince by driving him around in her Land Rover, or the time she pretended not to be the Queen to a couple of American tourists who didn’t recognise her as she strode around the Scottish Highlands.
It struck me, some time on the Friday, the day after the Queen died, that there was an Enid Blyton book about her that I didn’t own and had never read. Needless to say I swiftly remedied that.
The Story of Our Queen – fact or fiction?
This is a non-fiction book, though, unusually it is told rather in the style of fiction. It begins:
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a little Princess was born. She lay in her beautiful cot, a small golden-haired baby, her big blue eyes watching the sunbeams that shone through the window.
This, and various other little moments, particularly dialogue are most likely fictionalised – as with The Crown, we know of major events and often have rough ideas of what sort of conversations went on but the exact wording and so on has to be imagined.
It doesn’t shy away from the major events of the young princess’s life – beginning with the birth of her younger sister, Princess Margaret. In a chapter titled An Important Little Girl the death of her grandfather, King George V – or Grandpa King as she called him, and the abdication of her Uncle Edward.
The word abdication isn’t actually used, perhaps Blyton wanted the book to remain accessible to even the youngest of readers, and of course there is no mention of the Wallis Simpson or divorce. She explains that he
…did not wish to reign, and gave up his rights as king ; and so his brother George, Elizabeth’s father, became King instead…
It does touch on what an impact that must have had on the young princess, though.
Elizabeth knew that she herself was next in line—she would be Queen of England when her father died! It must have been a solemn and frightening thought—but even at that time the little girl was determined to serve her people well . . . and how she must have hoped that it would be very many years before she was called to the throne.
It was several years, but not very many as of course we know that King George VI died aged 56 in 1952 when Elizabeth was just 25.
Her father’s coronation is mentioned, reminding us that although those of us reading it today have only seen one coronation, Blyton was alive during the time of three coronations, though the first was when she was only around three-and-a-half.
I found these lines – about the old grand customs and age-old ceremonies interesting. As it has been so long for most of us since a coronation was held, the customs perhaps seem very much of the early to mid 1900s era. It hadn’t really occurred to me that they would have seemed ‘old’ during Blyton’s time. But of course various royal traditions must go back hundreds of years.
And now, in this present year, 1953, all the old grand customs and rites are taking place once again, at Elizabeth’s own coronation. Once more she carries history on her shoulders and is part of the long long centuries that have seen our kings and queens come and go…
You will remember the day of King George’s funeral, when once more age-old ceremonies and rites brought our magnificent history to life —and we saw the pomp and grandeur of long-past days unrolling before our eyes.
WWII is also mentioned – a rarity for Blyton, though difficult to avoid in a non-fiction book covering that time.
But now a black shadow was over the country—the shadow of war with Germany. Like many other children the two princesses were sent out of London because of the fear of bombing….
It was decided that they must be brought from Balmoral to somewhere near London… Few people knew that their beloved little princesses were living safely during those war years within the great stone walls of stately Windsor Castle.
It also covers the war contributions of the princesses.
they knitted a great deal, they collected war salvage, they had parties for London children who had been sent into the country, they did stirrup-pump practice in case of fire, and they helped in many war concerts. There was always something to do.
Along with my favourite information as somehow it seems incongruous (despite the story about her and the Saudi Prince)
Princess Elizabeth joined the A.T.S., drove army trucks and lorries, even in the black-out at nights, she oiled and greased trucks, took down engines, changed wheels, and did anything she was told. It was her own wish to do this and the nation was proud of her.
The death of her father is softened somewhat – there is no mention of his his prolonged illness beforehand (or the fact that the princess had taken on an increasing amount of royal duties due to his poor health).
The King, her father, was dead. When his servant had gone to
awaken him that February morning, he was in too deep a sleep ever to wake again—his soul had slipped away with his dreams.
The book ends with Blyton and the reader looking forward to Elizabeth’s coronation.
This is a lovely book. It is a very simple version of the Queen’s life, as it is aimed at young children, but it is still full of interesting information about her life. Although it omits precise and darker details of what went on in the royal household it doesn’t completely ignore the facts of the abdication or the losses of King George V and VI.
I would have loved to have had another volume, chronicling the early years of her reign and on, but of course Blyton died in 1968, and her poor health prevented her from writing for a few years before that.
The illustrations are charming, and the likenesses to the royals are very good. I have seen a suggestion that they were copied (with a few alterations) from photographs from the time, which seems fairly likely.