The Story Behind Queen Elizabeth’s VE Day Celebrations on The Crown Season 6

The Story Behind Queen Elizabeth’s VE Day Celebrations on The Crown Season 6

If you’re watching the sixth and final season of The Crown and wondering whether Queen Elizabeth really did sneak out of Buckingham Palace and dance with commoners to celebrate the end of World War II, the answer is…yes. Yes, she did.

[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

In the eighth episode, titled “The Ritz,” Claire Foy reprises her role as the young then Princess Elizabeth, who joins her sister Princess Margaret out dancing on V-E day on May 8, 1945, which marked the end of World War II in Europe. The lighthearted moment is one extended flashback, as Princess Margaret is at the end of her life and reminiscing on the good times they had together, and lamenting that her sister has lost her fun spontaneous side because she has to be so serious as a monarch.

According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, Elizabeth did start V-E day fulfilling her obligations with the royal family, standing beside Prime Minister Winston Churchill and greeting cheering throngs on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. At nightfall, Elizabeth and Margaret met up with a group that included guards, the King’s equerry, and a governess. Sporting her Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) uniform, representing the women’s branch of the British Armed services, Elizabeth danced along St. James’s Street doing the conga, Lambeth Walk, and the hokey-cokey. Margaret and Elizabeth joined the crowds shouting, “We want the King; we want the Queen.”

“I remember we were terrified of being recognized so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes,” Elizabeth, as Queen, told the BBC in 1985, describing the evening as “one of the most memorable nights of my life.” Then the duo snuck back into the palace and devoured sandwiches.

Elizabeth went out again the next night, writing in her diary that she walked for miles and went to bed at 3 a.m. Three months later, the sisters joined Londoners drinking to celebrate Japan’s surrender, ending World War II in the Pacific, and she describes running through The Ritz—though in the Netflix show, she’s depicted in the Ritz hotel on V-E day. Police apparently respected the young royals’ desire to be treated like private individuals. 

Elizabeth relished in her World War II service. When she turned 18, she immediately wanted to join the ATS. According to the National World War II museum, her father King George made sure his daughter didn’t get special treatment while serving with the ATS, both as a second subaltern and a Junior Commander, kind of like a Captain. She trained as a mechanic and took a driving and vehicle maintenance course. Rather than sleep at the ATS camps, she would go to training during the day and then back to Windsor Castle at night. Princess Margaret served as a Girl Guide and was part of the Sea Rangers.

The Crown episode ends with the young Elizabeth stopping to reflect on next steps outside Buckingham Palace after the evening’s shenanigans. And Bedell Smith’s biography says that the end of the war was indeed a turning point for the young royal, writing, “She had entered the war as a little girl, and now she was a young woman.”

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *