The Truth Behind the ‘Most Memorable’ Night of the Queen’s Life

By: Carol Kingston | Published: Jan 20, 2024

“The Crown” has quickly become one of the most-watched British TV shows of recent years, centered on the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

One particular scene involves a young Princess Elizabeth sneaking out of the palace with her sister Margaret. But was there any truth to the elaborate scene?

The Life of a Queen

Taking place over nearly six decades, “The Crown tells the history of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess Elizabeth stands beside a white horse aged 10

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The show takes place shortly before Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Phillip Mountbatten in 1947 and ends with Prince Charles tying the knot with Camilla Parker Bowles. Almost every significant historical event of the queen’s life was shared in this time frame.

Fans Left to Wonder

One particular episode of the drama, occurring in Season 6, saw the young Princess Elizabeth, played by Viola Prettejohn, sneak out of the palace alongside her sister, Princess Margaret, portrayed by Beau Gadson.

A woman holds out her arm to change the channel on her TV following the end of her show

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After the episode aired, millions of viewers were left wondering whether or not the scene had any truth to it.

The End of a Horrible War

As the scene begins, a flashback shows the then Princess Elizabeth on V-E Day (Victory in Europe). She, alongside Princess Margaret, planned to leave Buckingham Palace and join those celebrating the end of World War II.

Photograph shows Princess Elizabeth, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, her then-fiance, her mother, then Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, and her father, King George VI

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After being seen with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth one last time, the two princesses leave the palace grounds and venture into London.

War Museum Claims Scene Is Based on Reality

According to the Imperial War Museum, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret did, in fact, venture into London to celebrate the end of the war on V-E Day (via Town & Country).

A small tank is on display outside of a war museum

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“Daughters were secretly mingling with the jubilant crowds below them. The future monarch, Princess Elizabeth, and her sister Margaret had been allowed to leave the palace and take part — anonymously — in the party-like atmosphere,” writes the Imperial War Museum.

Queen Calls it the Best Night of Her Life

Speaking with Godfrey Talbot in a 1985 interview, Queen Elizabeth revealed she and around 16 other royal family members left the palace to join the celebrations that evening.

Queen Elizabeth II pictured in a pink outfit as she smiles during an event

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The then Queen of Britain recalls the event as “one of the most memorable nights of my life” (via The Independent).


Elizabeth Remembers It Clear as Day

While the interview came some 40 years after the evening of festivities, the queen appeared to remember it as if it was only yesterday during the interview.

Queen Elizabeth II photographed during a tour through New Zealand in 1977

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Speaking during the interview, the queen mentioned specific details and said, “We cheered the king and queen on the balcony and then walked miles through the street” (via Town & Country).


Princess Dons a Disguise

Before the young princess ventured into London, she decided to wear her Auxiliary Transport Uniform to blend in among the thousands of people swarming the streets.

Old photograph of Queen Elizabeth II riding her motorcycle in preparation for her test

Source: @niloc14061952/X

During the same 1985 interview, the queen said, “lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”


Terrified of Being Seen

The queen admitted she and her sister were “terrified of being recognized, so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes” (via Town & Country).

Queen Elizabeth II photographed wearing a green tophat and jacket that matches

Source: @indieg2022/X

However, she claimed, “A grenadier officer among our party of about 16 people said he refused to be seen in the company of another officer improperly dressed. So I had to put my cap on normally.”


King George Spoke of the Event

In his diary, Princess Elizabeth’s father, King George, wrote of the evening he let his daughters join in on the fun in London.

Windsor Castle exterior

Source: Canva

He called his daughters “poor darlings” before going to write, “They have never had any fun yet” (via The Independent).


Wonderful Escape for the Royal Princesses

Among the large group who accompanied the princesses was Jean Woodroffe, a cousin of the future queen.

Her Majesty the Queen with Princess Margaret and the Duke of Edinburgh at Tivoli Theater

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Speaking on the evening of festivities, she said, “It was like a wonderful escape for the girls. I don’t think they’d ever been out among millions of people. It was just freedom — to be an ordinary person” (via The Independent).


Queen Spotted in the Streets

It appears, however, that Princess Elizabeth’s disguise didn’t fool everyone. Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington, who had been working a shift at Bletchley Park, claims to have noticed the future queen during the evening.

Two women dressed in white shirts are shocked to see an event occurring on the street in front of them

Source: Freepik

“I had a friend who was a bodyguard of the queen, so I noticed her and Princess Margaret as they walked the streets of London. But they were people like anyone else — we didn’t take any notice of them,” she said (via Town & Country).