The Queen snuck out to join VE Day celebrations 77 years ago
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Featured Image Credit: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo / World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Britain’s longest serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II tragically died today (8 September), passing away peacefully at Balmoral.
Tributes have poured in for Her Majesty, who was known for her dedication and humility.
Before her 70 year reign began, the Queen - then Princess Elizabeth and just 19 years old - snuck out of Buckingham Palace and partied incognito with her sister Princess Margaret to celebrate the end of the Second World War.
The monarch described the night of 8 May 1945 as ‘one of the most memorable nights of my life’.
It was Victory in Europe Day and the six-year war was nearing its end. Wanting to experience one of the biggest celebrations in history first hand, Princess Elizabeth convinced her parents - George VI and the Queen Mother - to allow her to go out in disguise to party with ordinary people.
After some cajoling, Princess Elizabeth slipped out wearing the uniform of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she served as a mechanic. She was accompanied by a 16-strong escort from the Royal household.
Describing the night in a 1985 BBC interview, the Queen said: “We were terrified of being recognised – so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes.
“A Grenadier officer among our party of about 16 people said he refused to be seen in the company of another officer improperly dressed. So I had to put my cap on normally.”
The disguises were worth it though, as the Queen looked back on the historic night with huge fondness.
She said: “I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.
“I also remember when someone exchanged hats with a Dutch sailor; the poor man coming along with us in order to get his hat back.”
According to the Queen’s cousin, Margaret Rhodes, the Royal party really let their hair down as the night wore on.
Rhodes told Channel 4 documentary The Queen’s Big Night Out: “For some reason, we decided to go in the front door of the Ritz and do the conga. The Ritz has always been so stuffy and formal – we rather electrified the stuffy individuals inside.
“I don’t think people realised who was among the party – I think they thought it was just a group of drunk young people. I remember old ladies looking faintly shocked. As one congaed through, eyebrows were raised.”
According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography Elizabeth the Queen: The real story behind The Crown, the princess was back out partying the following night, and also took to the streets to celebrate Victory over Japan Day on 15 August.
The Queen's death has led to nation-wide mourning tonight, with 50 black cabs lining the Mall to pay tribute and all sporting events cancelled tomorrow.