Home / World News / Remembering the Queen: Royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip helped to heal wartime wounds

Remembering the Queen: Royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip helped to heal wartime wounds

In triumphantly announcing the end of World War II, Winston Churchill, then-British prime minister, warned that the effects of the clash would linger.

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead,” he opined in his address from Downing Street on May 8, 1945.

He would be proved right on both fronts.

The war, which dragged on for six long years, left Britain forced to rebuild vital infrastructure and resources stockpiles, with rationing of some items continued for the general populace until 1954. And of course, it was no different here in Australia, with the last restrictions on the sale of tea only removed in July 1950, a long month after butter became freely available again.

But, indeed, Britain and the Allies would spend a glorious night celebrating the momentous occasion, which at points during the war looked like it might never come. Crowds filled the streets of cities worldwide, but nowhere were the parties more raucous than in London.

 Crowd swarming all over a lorry on VE Day, central London, 8 May 1945.
Camera Icon Crowd swarming all over a lorry on VE Day, central London, 8 May 1945. Credit: Daily Herald Archive/SSPL via Getty Images
A massive crowd of people congregate in Whitehall to celebrate Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) to mark the end of European conflict in World War II, in London on 8th May 1945.
Camera IconA massive crowd of people congregate in Whitehall to celebrate Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) to mark the end of European conflict in World War II, in London on 8th May 1945. Credit: Popperfoto/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Much as the royal family had stood by their people during the times of great hardship, so they stood with them in celebration. No fewer than six times did the family step out onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace that day, alongside at times, Mr Churchill — prime minister and head of state side-by-side in lockstep as the backbone of the country, exhibiting strength and continuity.

But for a young Princess Elizabeth, by then 19 years old, the celebrations would take an unexpected turn with the opportunity to escape the confines of the palace walls presenting itself.

Speaking 40 years later, in 1985 to the BBC’s Godfrey Talbot, the then-Queen Elizabeth revealed what happened when she and her sister went out onto the streets of London that night, describing it as “one of the most memorable nights of my life”.

“I remember the thrill and relief after the previous days, waiting for the prime minister’s announcement of the end of the war in Europe.

“My parents went out on the balcony in response to the huge crowds outside. I think we went on the balcony nearly every hour,” the Queen said.

“Then when the excitement of the floodlights being switched on got through to us, my sister and I realised we couldn’t see what the crowds were enjoying . . . So we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves.”

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