Photos That Tell the Story of Queen Elizabeth’s Early Years

This article appeared in Brain-sharper and has been published here with permission.

Born to be Queen

From serving in the army to playing with her dogs as a child, the photos that have been unearthed of Queen Elizabeth in her younger days are absolutely fascinating to behold. Queen Elizabeth II is probably one of the most photographed people in the world. Born in an age when photography was becoming more accessible, it was only natural that a Royal family would take advantage of the technology they had access to in order to document as many moments of their daughters’ lives as possible. Victoria may have ushered photography into the palace, but as the 20th century progressed, Elizabeth often found that photographers were taking too many liberties with her family.

Keeping Hope Alive

A teenage Elizabeth is pictured here with her younger sister, Margaret, during the middle of the war effort. Though she was only 13 when it began, she was always ready to stand by her mother in order to keep hope alive among the people of Britain.

Hope In Sight

In the summer of 1942, Elizabeth implored her father, King George VI, to allow her to take part in the war effort. He finally relented, and she began training for her future post.

Playing Games

While most little girls play at pretending to be princesses, Elizabeth knew from the start what the life of a royal was. Even so, she still seemed to enjoy the same games like other girls, especially when it came to pretending to be a grown-up.

Playing At Royalty

Carrying a small, child-sized purse with a large ‘E’ embroidered onto the front, the young princess looks pleased to be demonstrating just how adult she is. Her baby sister Margaret, on the other hand, looks less than pleased.

The Truest Friend

From her earliest days, Queen Elizabeth has always been an ardent animal lover. She has been pictured embracing her various dogs over the years, a tradition that still lingers to this day.

The Truest Friend

The affection she holds for her pets is clear, especially given that her dog is seen below giving Elizabeth a kiss on the cheek. While dogs have long been popular in various royal courts, it might be safe to say that they are not just man’s best friend, but also the Queen’s.

In The Shadow Of Trees

Queen Elizabeth first met her future husband, Prince Philip, when she was only 13 years old. Despite her youth, the young princess had told those close to her that she had already fallen in love with the prince.

In The Shadow Of Trees

The two began a written correspondence, which blossomed into a full romance as the pair aged. The two planned to wed early on in their courtship, but the King requested that no official engagement be announced until Elizabeth was 21.

Posing In Style

One of the challenges most children face is sitting still for portraits that their parents can then hang around their house. As a princess, Elizabeth was no exception, and she found even from her early years that she would have to demonstrate the patience constantly instilled in her in order to be captured on film.

Posing In Style

Though this photo was originally taken in black and white, it was retouched with color in the last few years, bringing more life to Elizabeth’s childhood.

One Of The Girls

During Elizabeth’s army service, she was insistent on being one of the girls, undertaking the same tasks as the rest of her company, despite being royal. The biggest difference in her service is that she was the only one among them who continued to sleep at home, at least during her training.

One Of The Girls

Elizabeth distinguished herself upon enlisting as being the only female in the British royal family to serve as a part of the country’s armed forces.

Developing A Life Long Love

When Elizabeth was just a small child, she began a lifelong love of the dog breed corgis. The small breed was a perfect fit for the young princess, as she could easily lift the dogs in her arms.

Developing A Life Long Love

Elizabeth longed for a puppy of her own, but she wouldn’t get her wish until she was gifted a corgi, whom she named Susan, on her 18th birthday. Elizabeth held such affection for her dogs that she went on to create a canine dynasty.

Saluting The Troops

One lesser-known fact about the Queen is that she took an active role in World War II, despite being a princess. Elizabeth joined the ATS and became a truck mechanic when she came of age in 1945.

Saluting The Troops

Having trained as a truck mechanic, the Queen knew a thing or two about cars and motors and proved her expertise when she had learned how to change wheels, build and deconstruct engines as well as do a variety of small repairs on ambulances, transport vehicles and of course, drive them as well!

A Moment Of Quality Time

Being a royal with duties required by the government often meant for Elizabeth that she had less time than she would have liked to spend with her children. Though she would buck tradition, it seems, with regards to their raising, she held by the antiquated custom that placed the nannies firmly in charge of her children’s lives.

A Moment Of Quality Time

Even so, she is pictured here with Prince Philip and her two eldest children on a casual family outing.

Like Father Like Daughter

When Princess Elizabeth was born, her parents had no inkling of what sort of future she would have, as she was only nominally third in line for the throne. They still expected her uncle to have children, who would then supplant any claims Elizabeth had.

Like Father Like Daughter

Furthermore, until recent years, male descendants still had preference for taking the throne, so should Elizabeth have any brothers, the chance she would become queen would lessen even more. Instead, she was prepared for a life of leisure.

Gazing Towards The Future

The joy Elizabeth’s parents felt upon her birth was palpable in the way they gazed at their tiny daughter. The parents were eager to set up as normal a life as possible for her, despite their royal titles, especially given that in her early years it was expected that Elizabeth would never ascend to the throne.

Gazing Towards The Future

The family settled into a life that was seen as utterly normal for a child, despite the royal grandeur that set her life apart from others.

Spoiled By Grandma

One of the major forces that shaped Elizabeth into the queen she would eventually become was her own grandmother, Queen Mary.

Spoiled By Grandma

It was Mary who constantly pushed for Elizabeth to enjoy a more rigorous education, and once her father became the king, Queen Mary made sure a plan was implemented to lead Elizabeth towards becoming a well rounded and knowledgeable ruler. Queen Mary didn’t live to see Elizabeth on the throne, but she’d likely be proud of the queen her granddaughter has become.

Horsing Around

Queen Elizabeth’s love of horses, much like her love of dogs, hasn’t lessened over the years. During the 1970s, the Queen had a rare quiet moment with her husband, during which they were able to go visit some of the beloved royal horses that live on the palace grounds.

Horsing Around

Dressed down from her usual solid colored suits, the Queen still ops not to upset her hairstyle by covering it with a scarf in a pattern that matches that of her suit.

Holding The Curl

For every child who has been forced to sit through a photo shoot, there’s always one picture of their chubby arms grasping onto some sort of object in order to create a more interesting shot.

Holding The Curl

Seeing a baby Elizabeth clutching a necklace to her curls is a good reminder for everyone that even a princess can be coaxed into silly poses. As the royal princess aged into a queen, there would be many more photoshoots, but like childhood, she left the silly poses behind.

Tiaras Of Glory

With the way the public follows every royal fashion choice Kate Middleton makes today, it’s no surprise that during the 1940s and ’50s, the masses couldn’t get enough of Elizabeth and Margaret’s fashion choices – from their gowns, to their shoes, to how they wore their hair.

Tiaras Of Glory

The princesses here are dazzling a crowd as Elizabeth flashes her winning smile from underneath a magnificent tiara. Margaret’s hairpiece may not have the height, but its inherent elegance still shines through.

Posing With Joy

At 21 years old, Elizabeth was finally allowed to announce her engagement to Prince Philip, formerly of Greece and Denmark. The two posed separately and together for a series of engagement photos in 1947 that would later be shared more widely.

Posing With Joy

The public engagement was met with great fanfare, though there were still many who believed that Philip wasn’t an appropriate match for Elizabeth. Many also questioned his loyalties to England, but Philip was determined to prove those doubts wrong.

Honeymoon In Malta

You can call it luck or you can call it duty, but due to Philip’s position in the Navy, the royal couple ended up taking not one, but two honeymoons after their wedding. Though their first was located in the woods of New Hampshire, the couple took a second honeymoon in Malta a year later.

Honeymoon In Malta

Of course, the trip was half work and half play for Philip, who was there on assignment when Elizabeth came to visit.

A New Mother’s Gaze

Nearly a year after Elizabeth finally wed her love, Prince Philip, she gave birth to Prince Charles. Elizabeth was only 22 when she first became a mother, and the duties of being both a royal head of state and a mother would often conflict.

A New Mother’s Gaze

Even so, in Charles’s first days, Elizabeth was captured gazing lovingly at the baby who had been difficult to deliver. Though the Queen didn’t talk about it at the time, Charles was born via Caesarian.

In The Eyes Of A Child

In the early 1930s, Elizabeth sat for yet another photo shoot designed to capture the best of the young princess. Remarkably mature from a young age, Elizabeth proved popular with the people of England, even before she was the heir to the throne.

In The Eyes Of A Child

Showing off just what a big girl she is, she sat patiently, a small string of pearls around her neck, while she complied with the photographer’s request that she turn her cheek just so.

Practicing Her Wave

There’s little that could have charmed the English people more than seeing a toddler princess bundled in her bonnet peeking out from above her carriage in order to get a better look at the world.

Practicing Her Wave

Elizabeth’s signature wave wouldn’t quite be developed until she was a teenager, but it’s clear the seeds were planted, even from this tender age. Then again, when she was this young, Elizabeth was hardly even aware that she was royal, let alone that she was destined to become Queen.

Childhood Games

As any elder sister is likely to do, a youthful Elizabeth is seen sitting on the grass playing with her younger sister, Margaret. The two princesses appear to be making some sort of bunny or other animal ears, though Elizabeth and Margaret both appear somewhat startled to find the camera intruding on their private game.

Childhood Games

While the public loved any pictures of the precocious young princess, it seems then, as now, she wants the public only to see her on her own terms.

Walking The Children

Like dogs, it’s always a good idea to ensure that children get fresh air every day. Though Elizabeth often found herself occupied with her royal duties, she did what she could to spend time with her children now and again.

Walking The Children

Taking young Charles along with her for a walk in the park with one of her favorite corgis was a great way for mother and son to spend some quality time together while also getting in a little bit of exercise.

Making Her Army Debut

It took a lot of cajoling of her father before Elizabeth was able to join in with the war effort, but as she neared adulthood, it became harder for him to resist her pleas.

Making Her Army Debut

Elizabeth’s first major public effort was a radio address she gave at 14 for the BBC Children’s Hour, in which she expressed empathy for all of those who were displaced by the war. Although both Elizabeth and Margaret were sent to Windsor Castle for safety, that didn’t stop them from experiencing air raids.

Hitting The Road

Princess Elizabeth was rarely seen in candid photos enjoying her private life, but in honor of her Diamond Jubilee, a video was released with footage and stills from Elizabeth’s teenage years.

Hitting The Road

In this photo, the princess is seen riding in a car with her parents, sister, and of course, their pet corgi. It was refreshing to see Elizabeth acting like a regular teenager in her era, as she lounged outdoors with her family while knitting, chatting, and reading.

Pondering Of Letters

As a young woman, Elizabeth was captured sitting at her personal writing desk. Elizabeth had always been one to favor order and routine, even as a child.

Pondering Of Letters

Elizabeth was so regimented that she would even write notes following her swimming lessons, the most notable of which were written on the day her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, putting her next in line to be queen. Elizabeth often documented her days in personal journals, which has left an account of her thoughts on the events that changed her life.

V Is For Victory

When the war ended, the country was even more prepared to rally behind Elizabeth, especially after having seen just how much she participated in the war effort. It was a formative experience for her to be spending so much time with her own peers, which she didn’t often get to do as a princess.

V Is For Victory

On the evening of Victory Day, both she and Margaret wanted to experience the celebration with their people, so they blended into the crowds on the streets.

Stylings Of A Schoolgirl

Before her father became king, Elizabeth’s parents took a more relaxed attitude towards her education, preferring that her lessons were short, and that a greater emphasis was made on play.

Stylings Of A Schoolgirl

The princess was always deeply interested in equestrian and spent much of her energy on maintaining a routine with her horses. The moment Elizabeth became the heir to the throne, however, her education became a much more serious matter. Luckily though, the princess enjoyed her studies.

Enjoying The Summer Breeze

As lovely as summers are, they’re even better when you beat the heat in a breezy summer dress with a puppy in your arms. True to form, Elizabeth was captured here as a teenager clutching her dog as she gazed out into the summer sun.

Enjoying The Summer Breeze

The flower-patterned dress was captured in another portrait of her taken around the same time, though in the second photo, she has dressed it up with two rows of delicate pearls.

Gathering Together

Family portraits have been a palace tradition for ages, even before they were done on camera. Of course, gathering the young children and getting them to pose for a few minutes became a significantly easier task once photography was involved.

Gathering Together

In the past, however, children who posed for a portrait with their family had to spend days on end posing for the portrait while the artist rendered their likeness onto a canvas. That’s no easy task for a young child.

A Queen Of Her Own

Queen Elizabeth II may not be the most unlikely of monarchs, though it was considered a long shot upon her birth in the 1920s. In 1952, Elizabeth was crowned the Queen of the United Kingdom upon the early passing of her father, King George VI.

A Queen Of Her Own

Elizabeth was only 25 when she assumed the throne, but she has become one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history and has already surpassed the record of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 64 years.

A Country Wedding

Here’s Young Elizabeth as a child at the wedding of Lady May Cambridge and Captain Henry Abel Smith in a plush coat befitting her royal title. Lady May Cambridge was the daughter of Princess Alice, the Countess of Athlone and the Earl of Athlone, and he was the only surviving brother of Queen Mary.

A Country Wedding

The wedding between Lady May Cambridge and Captain Henry Abel Smith happened in October 1931. It was a country wedding at the village church of St Mary, Balcombe, Sussex.

The Future Queen

The future Queen had a confident stride, even in her youth. You can see her look of determination and attitude of responsibility. Her she is walking in London in May of 1932. Because of her royal lineage, she often had to attend events with her parents and early on she grew accustomed to wearing appropriate attire.

The Future Queen

Winston Churchill once described the princess when she was as young two years old as “a character, she has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.”

Balmoral Castle

Queen Elizabeth’s favorite residence is widely believed to be Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she’s been going since she was a small child. In this photo, she’s seated in a horse-drawn carriage with her grandparents on the way back to Balmoral from church services. The Balmoral castle has been one of the properties belonging to the British royal family since 1852 when the grounds and its original castle were purchased by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.

Balmoral Castle

It still remains in the ownership of the royal family and is not part of the Crown Estate.

Princess Elizabeth and Her Mother

Princess Elizabeth looks lovingly at her mother. It’s been a few years after her death, and many still have questions about Queen Elizabeth II’s mom, who was known as the Queen Mother. She was 101 when she passed on, surviving her husband by 50 years. It’s been estimated that over a million people filled the streets outside Westminster Abbey and along the route from London to her final resting place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Princess Elizabeth and Her Mother

Not much is publicly known about their relationship but it would appear that they had a solid bond.

The Royal Lodge

A pair of royal sisters were captured posing on the rocks at the Royal Lodge in Windsor on one of their retreats. It was the Windsor home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother from 1952 until her passing. The Queen Mother passed away at the Royal Lodge in March 2002, with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, by her side.

The Royal Lodge

Since 2004, it has been the official country home of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York.

Their Wedding

The Queen and Prince Philip pose for a photo on their wedding day. The Queen rocked a stunning wedding dress with a 13-foot bridal trail designed by Norman Hartnell. Norman was a leading British fashion designer, best known for his work for the ladies of the Royal Family.

Their Wedding

At the Queen’s request, the final design had a ‘sweetheart’ neckline, the fuller skirt with heavy, soft folds of silk embellished with varied embroideries.

When Charles was Born

Besides becoming the Queen of England and Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty also became a mother to four children, three boys — Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward — and one girl, Princess Anne. As you can imagine, raising four children and being a reigning monarch couldn’t have been easy.

When Charles was Born

When Prince Charles was born, Elizabeth had not yet become the Queen of England. But even so, she was often away from the Prince of Wales during his infancy.

Her Time in the Army

Princess Elizabeth was photographed in her British Army uniform. Queen Elizabeth was a driver and truck mechanic for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a women’s branch of the British army. At the time of the picture, she was a second subaltern, which is equivalent to a second lieutenant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service of the British Army. She achieved the rank of Junior Commander.

Her Time in the Army

We can see her smile broadly while she was serving in the army.

The Queens Children

After celebrating her son Charles’s first birthday, she went abroad and began spending long intervals of time away from him. After she was coronated in 1953, the Queen’s schedule became even busier and the Queen relied on their nannies to supervise the day to day lives of her kids during this time. Philip was also away for much of Charles’s younger years.

The Queens Children

While Charles was just a young boy, his father went on a six-month Commonwealth trip after Her Majesty’s coronation. Nonetheless, he did have strong opinions when it came to how his son should act.

Charles

Even at an early age, Charles was extremely shy and often found himself getting bullied by other schoolboys. Believing that Charles was too sensitive, Philip sent his firstborn to his alma mater boarding school in Scotland called Gordonstoun. As Charles grew older, his relationship with his mother got even more complicated, especially after he married Princess Diana in 1981.

Charles

Like her brother Charles, Anne is believed to have experienced Philip’s tough parenting style. But she, unlike Charles, was much more extroverted and didn’t mind Philip’s “belittling” as much as her brother.