The future monarch was so "terrified" of being recognized that she pulled her hat down over her eyes

By Simon Perry and Stephanie Petit
May 08, 2020 01:00 PM
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Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret
| Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty

It has been 75 years since Queen Elizabeth experienced what she has called "one of the most memorable nights of my life."

The 94-year-old monarch reflected on celebrating the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945 — now known as VE Day — in a BBC recording from 1985. After waving to the crowds gathered in front of Buckingham Palace "nearly every hour, six times" with her family, the then-19-year-old royal and her younger sister Princess Margaret went incognito to mix in with the crowds and experience firsthand the joy of the people who were celebrating all over London.

"When the excitement of the flood lights being switched on got through to us, my sister and I realized we couldn't see what the crowds were enjoying," Queen Elizabeth recalled. "My mother had put her tiara on for the occasion, so we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves."

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Winston Churchill, King George VI and Princess Margaret
| Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty

During WWII, the then-princess had served in a reserve unit in the war and was also named Colonel of the Grenadier Guards. She said that she and her sister were "terrified" of being recognized, so she pulled her uniform cap down over her eyes. However, a Grenadier Guards officer that was part of her 16-person party made her wear her push her hat back up as he "refused to be seen in the company of another officer improperly dressed."

The Queen continued, "We cheered the king and queen on the balcony and then walked miles through the street. I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief."

Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty

She admits how she and Margaret "cheated slightly" in joining the crowds in shouting, "We want the King," as they had sent a message into the house saying they were waiting outside. Following the request, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth then came out to wave to the crowds.

"I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life," the Queen concluded.

Queen Elizabeth

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Queen Elizabeth will lead Britain in its remembrance of the end of World War II in Europe by conjuring memories of her own father’s speech to the nation.

The monarch, 94, will make an address on May 8 at 9 p.m. — the same time her father King George VI gave a radio message at the end of the war in 1945.