Skip to main content

Queen of panto: Photos show Elizabeth II as cross-dressing stage star

updated 11:28 AM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
Princess Margaret (L) and Princess Elizabeth (R) on stage in a pantomime of Cinderella at Windsor Castle in 1941. Photos of the sisters in four plays during World War II are up for auction. Princess Margaret (L) and Princess Elizabeth (R) on stage in a pantomime of Cinderella at Windsor Castle in 1941. Photos of the sisters in four plays during World War II are up for auction.
HIDE CAPTION
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth II as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
Queen of the stage: Elizabeth as panto star
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Photos of teenage Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret acting in plays to be auctioned
  • Britain's future queen starred in a series of pantomimes at Windsor Castle in 1940s
  • Photos belonged to headmaster of Windsor school and a co-star of the royal sisters

London (CNN) -- A treasure trove of old photos has revealed how Queen Elizabeth once took to the stage -- sometimes dressed as a boy -- in a series of holiday pantomimes during World War II.

The archives feature more than a dozen signed photographs of Princess Elizabeth and the late Princess Margaret, her younger sister, as the teenage stars in Christmas productions of the traditional plays at Windsor Castle in the 1940s.

A pantomime -- or "panto" as it is also known -- is a mixture of slapstick and music performed across Britain during the holiday season. They are typically based on children's stories and usually feature male leads played by women (and vice versa), comedic twists and audience participation.

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth -- the current queen's mother -- spent most of their time in London while their daughters remained in Windsor, just outside the capital.

But at Christmas they would return to join a privileged audience at the luxury pantomimes their daughters starred in at the Royal School.

In 1941 Elizabeth, then 15, played Prince Florizel, the male lead, in a pantomime of "Cinderella", while 11-year-old Margaret took the title role. The following year the future queen starred as Prince Salvador in "Sleeping Beauty" with Margaret as Fairy Thistledown.

In 1943 Elizabeth won her first title role in "Aladdin" with Margaret as Princess Roxana. The next year the royal sisters starred as Lady Christina Sherwood and the Honorable Lucinda Fairfax, respectively, in "Old Mother Red Riding Boots. "

The fascinating images are owned by the estates of Hubert Tannar, an amateur actor and headmaster of the school the princesses attended, and Cyril Woods, who shared the stage with the young Windsors and became a friend of the future queen during rehearsals.

The archive of royal pantomime photos -- along with documents, Christmas cards and over twenty letters from the Queen to Tannar's widow -- are expected to fetch thousands of dollars at auction next week.

"This is the best royal archive I have ever handled," said Chris Albury, the senior valuer at Dominic Winter Auctioneers, based in Gloucestershire, England.

"The pantomime albums are highly atmospheric and you can see both princesses growing from childhood to adulthood, but the albums are further dramatically charged when you consider the wartime backdrop to these luxury pantomimes performed at Windsor Castle."

Read more: Prince William talks fatherhood with CNN

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT