Starting 25 November and for the first time, visitors to Windsor Castle will have the opportunity to see six rare, surviving costumes worn by the teenage Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during wartime performances.
During the Second World War, Her Majesty The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and her sister Princess Margaret would spend much of their time in Windsor safely away from the bombing. Between 1941 and 1944, the Princesses’ performed in a series of Christmas pantomimes to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund – a fund that supplied knitting wool to make comforters for soldiers on the front lines.
The costumes that survived were worn by the Princesses during the final two pantomimes – Aladdin (1943) and Old Mother Red Riding Boots (1944.) Princess Elizabeth wore a gold brocade and turquoise jacket with dungarees and a matching hat for the title role of Aladdin. Margaret wore a red silk dress with a matching jacket to play ‘Princess Roxana.’ The red and gold embroidered tunic worn by their fellow cast member who played ‘The King’ will also be on display, as well as a combination of pieces worn by Margaret.
In addition, visitors will also have a chance to see three costumes worn in Old Mother Riding Boots. The display includes a long-sleeved pink satin and lacy dress Elizabeth wore for the role of ‘Lady Christina Sherwood.’ A chintz shirt, trousers, and sunhat for a seaside scene will also be among the display. As for Margaret, visitors can see her blue taffeta dress with cream lace bloomers that she wore for the role of ‘The Honourable Lucinda Fairfax.’
In addition to the costumes, in the Waterloo Chamber, there will be 16 large-scale and colourful pictures of fairy-tale characters that were pasted on palace walls to decorate for the pantomimes. Seventy-five years after they were covered up at the end of the war, the war paintings by Sir Thomas Lawrence that had been removed for safekeeping will now be available for the public to view.
The exhibit is included in the standard admission price to Windsor Castle and will be on display until Monday, 31 January. Those looking to book tickets for 2022 will be able to do so in mid-November.