The Queen’s hidden talents: Unearthed letter from 1945 reveals fascinating details


QUEEN Elizabeth II is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror and the longest-reigning in British history. But before taking the throne, the young princess did a lot more than sit around in Buckingham Palace, as a letter she wrote in 1945 reveals.

Queen Elizabeth, now 95, has lived a long and fascinating life. During her reign, she has travelled more extensively than any other monarch, undertaking 261 official overseas visits, including 96 state visits, to 116 different countries. And in her personal life within the Royal Family, she’s a mother to four, a grandmother to eight and great-grandmother to six.

But there’s one significant chapter of the Queen’s life that has long been buried in the history books, and a letter seen by, handwritten by the young Princess Elizabeth in 1945, aged 19, sheds some light on it.

The letter has now been sold on auction, but what it reveals is remarkable.

Written on Buckingham Palace letterhead to “Mary”, the letter is signed “Lilibet”, the Queen’s family nickname, and is dated April 24, 1945, just days after her 19th birthday.

What it reveals is how the Queen felt about one of the most formative times of her life: the years of World War Two and how she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War.

The Queen's hidden talents

The Queen’s hidden talents (Image: GETTI/icollector)

After Britain entered the Second World War in 1939, many of London’s children were evacuated to avoid the frequent aerial bombing.

One senior politician urged the King to take Elizabeth, then 13 and her sister Margaret, 9, to Canada.

But Elizabeth’s mother wouldn’t allow it, saying: “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.”

So the two Princesses were moved to Balmoral Castle, Sandringham House, and eventually Windsor Castle, where they waited out the war.

The Queen's hidden talents

The Queen’s hidden talents: Page 1 of the letter (Image: icollector)

The Queen's hidden talents

The Queen’s hidden talents: Page 2 of the letter (Image: icollector)

But as soon as she was old enough, Elizabeth headed out to make her contribution and was appointed as an honorary second subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service with the service number of 230873.

In 1945, before the war ended, she trained as a driver and mechanic and was given the rank of honorary junior commander, alongside Winston Churchill’s daughter.

This stint gave the Queen some of her most impressive hidden talents: being the only monarch ever who is able to change a spark plug and a tyre.

The 1945 letter sees the Queen telling her friend how she’d “just finished a mechanics course in the ATS which I found most interesting.”


The Queen's hidden talents

The Queen’s hidden talents: Princess Elizabeth working on a car in 1945 (Image: GETTY)

She wrote: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life before, as everything I learned was brand new to me – all the offices of a car and all the intricacies of map reading.

“But I enjoyed it all very much and found it a great experience.”

At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and Margaret famously slipped into the street and mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London.

The Queen said later in a rare interview: “We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves.

The Queen's hidden talents

The Queen’s hidden talents: During her ATS training (Image: GETTY)

“I remember we were terrified of being recognised … 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.”

In post-war times, the Queen retained the knowledge she learned in the ATS.

She has loved cars ever since and is famous for driving herself around her country estates.

In fact, the Queen is the only person in Britain who can drive without a license or number plate on her car.


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