A newly released collection of diary entries written by a childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth II reveals the beginning of the romance between Elizabeth and her future husband Prince Philip from the perspective of someone who watched it happen. The new entries come from the diary of Alathea Fitzlan Howard, a close companion of the young Elizabeth and her immediate family, covering her memories during the years from 1940 to 1945.
Teenage friend of a future Queen
Howard was sent to live near Windsor Castle during the Second World War, and spent much time there with the Royal Family, which befriended her and frequently invited her to spend time with them.
She quickly became a close friend of both Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret; Howard was the oldest of the three and developed a sisterly relationship with the princesses.
Queen Elizabeth is referred to as Lilibet, a nickname she acquired when she acquired when she was too young to pronounce her own name and which intimate friends and relatives frequently called her in her younger years.
The nickname returned to public attention with the funeral of Prince Philip , who was among those who called her by the name.
The Queen left a handwritten note to her husband on his coffin during the funeral, signed “Lilibet,” though the rest of the personal note could not be read.
Philip himself entered the life of the future Queen during the time in which Alathea was a constant companion of the Royal Family and his relationship with the young Elizabeth is a large part of the diary.
The “Prince of Greece”
Howard recorded how, in 1941 Elizabeth and Margaret “burst out laughing” when asked about the “Prince of Greece” and added that she knew “quite well” what the reason for the laughter was.
The relationship between the two moved slowly during the war years while Philip served as a very highly regarded officer in the Royal Navy, a career which he adored and would eventually need to give up to marry Queen Elizabeth.
By 1945 the entries reveal that Howard knew that the relationship had become serious enough for marriage to become an imminent possibility.
Aside from tracking the romance with Philip, the diaries show how the young Elizabeth enjoyed spending her free time.
Alathea played games with the princesses and eventually hosted Elizabeth at her own family home later in 1945. Even for a close friend, hosting a future Queen was a great honor.
Alathea Fitzlan Howard died in 2001 and left her diaries to her niece, who collected and adapted them into book form and published them as The Windsor Diaries.