What It Takes to Be Royal: A Day in the Life of the Young Queen Elizabeth II
In 1957, Reader's Digest spent a day with the world's most influential royal. From how many dresses the Queen wears a week to how she manages to smile continuously for hours on end—we go behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace.
Editor’s Note: In October 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II was just 31 years old, Reader’s Digest was granted exclusive access to the world’s most influential royal. We’ve chosen to republish this excerpt from the original full-length article, due to the enduring interest in the British royal family.
At Admiralty Arch in London, a bobby is holding back traffic, extending the right of way to a sprightly little horse-drawn carriage whose maroon door panels display the royal arms. Inside the carriage repose some worn red-leather cases—the Queen’s boxes, containing top-secret reports and memoranda flown in daily from all over the world. The equipage clip-clops up the Mall, passes a vast statue of great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria and enters the cobblestoned Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. Here a Queen’s messenger descends with the boxes—one of them a top priority Foreign Office box—and carries them through nearly half a mile of corridors to a room on the second floor of the palace.
This is a famous room. Virtually inaccessible, guarded as jealously as the War Plans Room in Washington, it is the Queen’s “office.” About 99 percent living room, it is spacious and handsome, with a subtle color scheme of green and oyster gray: green walls, gray draperies and carpet, against which the light reflects a rich gleam from period porcelains, crystal, gold leaf, silver, and glossy table tops. Staring down from the walls some dozen peruked ancestors, combining looks of melancholy virtue with heavy, full-lipped mouths, share a family resemblance.
This is essentially a feminine room—all that challenges it is a man-size mahogany desk, right-angled in a huge bay window overlooking the palace garden. The desk is awash in official-looking papers, and from it a wall of photographs juts up, a cheerful hodge-podge of children, family groups, uniforms, wedding gowns, boats, dogs, horses.
At this desk, pen in hand, brows puckered, is sitting one of the most remarkable young women of our time—Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. But neither hereditary titles nor the documents before her reflect Elizabeth’s personal record of achievement—the fact that in five brief years her effort and personality have made her the best-loved, best-known, most traveled, most energetically dedicated sovereign in the history of the realm.
Elizabeth is wearing a cherry-red wool dress, pearl necklace, pearl earrings and no shoes. It is one of the rare moments of the day when the royal footwear can be off duty, even if their owner cannot. Shorn of familiar tiara, high heels, floor-length gowns, Elizabeth looks younger than her 31 years, smaller even than her measurements: size ten, height five feet four, waist 24. There is about her a tissue-paper immaculacy, a formidable neatness. Not a wisp has escaped the moderately wavy, conventionally coifed, medium-brown hair; the famous Windsor skin is petal fresh. In private Elizabeth is as regal as in public—no impatient gestures, no elbows on the desk, no slouching. The royal back is like a board, a legacy from the late Queen Mary, whose own ramrod carriage remained, to the end, inflexible.
The Invitation: Now the Queen selects a gold key—there are only two and the Foreign Secretary has the other—and opens the Foreign Office box. The first missive she picks out provokes a spontaneous exclamation of pleasure. Written on White House notepaper, it is signed “Dwight D. Eisenhower” and contains an invitation to visit the United States in October 1957.
The Queen is delighted, but not exactly bowled over by surprise. The invitation has been hanging fire for nearly 18 months. Initiated at low diplomatic levels to avoid boomerang embarrassments, it was finally smiled on by President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister, then shelved because of the Middle East situation, revived for spring possibilities, dropped because of royal commitments to Portugal, France and Denmark, reconsidered, scuttled by indiscreet “leaks,” finally revamped to include the opening of the Canadian Parliament.
The actual appearance of the invitation informs the Queen (a) that it has finally achieved the blessing of the three governments and (b) that her wish has come true—to visit America during the year commemorating the first British settlement at Jamestown. The project is of such importance that the Palace will henceforward refer to it as The Visit.
On the surface, The Visit looks like another routine trip by royalty. Actually, it is designed to emphasize the coming of age of a new group of nations, which, if they stay united, may some day rival the power of the United States itself. Elizabeth comes to visit us less as Queen of England than as Head of the Commonwealth, an organization in which Empire domination has been replaced by partnership.
The serious-faced young Queen knows that much water has flowed under London Bridge since 1776, when ancestor George III, up on the wall, lost those pesky Colonies. To Britons of the Queen’s generation “colonialism” is a dead issue. She is as proud as her countrymen that while the Communists have been holding 100 million foreign people behind the Iron Curtain and giving them the treatment of Hungary, the British have been freeing 500 million from colonial ties, investing 300 million dollars a year in their local industries, helping them to organize complete self-government, no strings attached. In her first sovereign visit to the New World, Elizabeth will be representing the very same ideas of liberty pioneered by her American kinsfolk.
From daily perusal of her boxes Elizabeth also knows that this policy is good for all concerned. England’s trade with her former territories has nearly doubled, while their own local production has increased 1200 percent. Her lusty young Commonwealth now numbers about 640 million people—a quarter of the population of the globe.
The Queen has made herself the symbol of this Commonwealth’s unity. With her husband she has tramped the length and breadth of the new nations, making devoted friends. The new nations feel that she understands them. They believe that she is on their side—and to an extraordinary extent she is. The young Queen and her husband will probably influence the world in which we live as few couples have ever done in history.
What sort of person is this young woman? Just what is her character? How does she act? How does she do her inexpressibly difficult job?
The Girl and the Queen: Sitting alone at her desk, intently considering all the implications of the President’s invitation, something is missing from the Queen’s appearance as the world generally sees it. It is the Smile, target of millions of cameras, the catalyst that can bestow on Elizabeth’s fresh good looks a quality of beauty. Without the Smile, relationship between girl-at-desk and ancestors-on-wall is quickly apparent. To the Queen, most even-tempered, least moody member of the royal family, this stern mouthed Hanoverian heritage has been a trial since childhood.
To overcome it, she is forced to smile unrelentingly every moment she is in public. If she relaxes, reporters may write that “the Queen appeared displeased,” which can be disastrous for the organization she is visiting. The strain of smiling for hours on end can be understood only by those who have tried to do it. The muscles of the face tremble with fatigue, the smile becomes a grimace. Elizabeth has mastered the difficulty, just as she has conquered the exhausting job of standing hour after hour in spite of aching muscles.
Off duty, her manner is relaxed, friendly, her reactions as natural as those of any girl anywhere. She is gentle with the nervous and the tongue-tied, for she is shy herself. She is frankly mad about her husband and her children, and she fights continuously to keep her family life separated from her official duties. She infinitely prefers a small house to a palace, the country to the town, sports clothes to formal dresses. She has a lively sense of humor, and, when anything appeals to it, her hands go between her knees, back goes her head and she laughs unrestrainedly.
On duty, her blue eyes take on a cool expression in which can be sensed some of the spiritual loneliness imposed by the Crown. The job of being Queen calls for endless devotion to endless duties. If there is conflict between love and duty, pleasure and duty, even exhaustion and duty, there can be only one decision. It is a lot to ask of a fun-loving girl with her own family to raise. She could not do it without her religion and a sense of dedication inherited from her father.
Normally good-natured, self-disciplined, slow to anger, Elizabeth has a steel core which becomes apparent if anyone, Philip included, tries to tamper with her obligations as she sees them, or reflects however slightly upon the dignity of the Crown. The eyes blaze, the mouth sets obstinately, and the offender is tartly brought to heel. It is well that she has this steel for, privy to secrets she may not confide even to her own husband, Elizabeth is saddled with crushing responsibilities, not for a term or two, but until the day she dies.
Under the British constitution, no statute is valid until it bears the ancient words, “La Reine le veult,” (The Queen wills it) followed by her personal signature—and Elizabeth signs nothing she has not understood. Every important Foreign Office telegram, every top-secret report must be read and filed in her memory, for, while politicians come and go, the Sovereign is always there, and it is her duty to help cabinet ministers with her sense of living history.
Her sense of living history helped her last February when headline stories of royal friction flared up in the newspapers, intercepting Prince Philip on his way back from a Commonwealth tour. Outraged, he proposed cutting short his trip and flying directly home. She heard him out patiently, over long-distance. As Elizabeth Windsor, she longed to have him by her side. As Queen of England, she saw that the rumors hit at the sanctity of the Crown. “I think that would be undignified,” she said finally. “Gossip blows over faster if you ignore it. Stick to the program!” Sticking to the program reunited the young couple a little later in Lisbon, in one of their biggest personal triumphs since accession.
Noblesse Oblige: The Queen’s engagements are made up a year ahead from some 2500 requests for personal appearances—to lay corner stones, unveil plaques, place wreaths, plant trees, visit hospitals, attend receptions, review troops, open exhibitions. She has a rage for perfection, and once she has accepted an engagement nothing is too much trouble.
In the blinding heat of Ceylon, to please the people, she wore her heavy Coronation dress embroidered with scores of yards of gold wire. To complete the costume, she put on a massive diamond coronet, a diamond necklace, and long white gloves. Thus clad, she moved for hours through thousands of people under a burning tropical sun. Her aides were drenched with perspiration, their white uniforms sticking to their backs, but she finished the day smiling, with even her makeup unsmudged. The Governor General murmured a compliment on her extraordinary performance. “Ohd,” she replied wryly, picking at the thick embroidery on her dress, “my only fear was that this gold wire would melt!”
The strain of being ever on the center of the stage is enormous. Occasionally it is almost too great. Prince Philip watches her closely and rallies her on occasion, but sometimes even this backfires. Once, when they were approaching a large group of children, he whispered to her: “Buck up, old dear, you’re drooping.”
The children dissolved in mirth. They were from a deaf school, lip readers all.
Elizabeth is completely fearless, confident that no one will ever harm her. On her travels in Asia and Africa she has become locked in crowds 10,000 strong. In Nigeria a person jumped into her car—but only to present a petition. In the Johannesburg railroad station a yelling old man rushed at her to ask her to go outside where his crippled son could see her (she did). In Canada a youth broke through the Mounties and asked her to give him an autograph (she did not). Blind lepers with disease-ravaged limbs crowded about her in a leper colony, and only her compassion was affected. At home she goes everywhere unescorted. On one occasion this alarmed the MVD guarding Nikita Khrushchev, who was paying an official visit at Windsor. To relieve a constrained afternoon, she offered to drive him around Windsor Park in her own sports car. The MVD were horrified.
“But no one will shoot while I am driving!” said Elizabeth brightly. It was no use. The crowned ruler could walk from one end of the Commonwealth to the other without danger, but the head of the People’s Socials Republics dared not stir without his police.
Pomp and Protocol: Now a new journey is in prospect. Following the Queen’s acceptance of the invitation, plans for The Visit slowly take shape. There are hundreds of items; each is approved or amended by the Queen personally, and the final timetable is printed for the guidance of all concerned. For the Atlantic crossing, a standard plane is charted from BOAC. A few changes are made to provide a private compartment for the Queen and Prince Philip; the choice of crew is left to the airline.
Now comes the selection of the Queen’s party. The entourage represents the last word in teamwork. Besides being perfectionists at their own jobs, they are specialties in protocol and formal etiquette. Each has an assigned, rehearsed role. At every event there must be two ladies in waiting to aid the Queen. There must be two private sectaries and one equerry for the Queen and a secretary for Prince Philip. The press secretary must be on hand at all times. Behind the scenes will be the Queen’s first dresser, Miss “Bobo” MacDonald, and one assistant to cope with incessant changes of clothes; a valet for Prince Philip, to produce his uniforms, with proper decorations, the instant required. All the principals must be backed up by secretaries, servants, and assistants. Last and perhaps most important on a state visit is the doctor, ready to head off nervous physical exhaustion, insomnia, digestive upsets, colds, and headaches.
Esoteric items of information now being ping-ponging across the Atlantic, between the entourage and their hosts in America. The Queen is strictly a three-course eater (a note which drove French chefs into melancholia during the Paris visit), prefers simple fare, is allergic to shellfish…New York City is not the capital of New York state…”God Save the Queen” has the same tune of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”… American liquor is stronger than British… British electric razors and steam irons will not operate on American current … Painting is the President’s hobby … The Queen does not smoke, neither does Philip … Pocahontas was an Indian female. (Most of this information is for the staff. Elizabeth and Philip are fond of America and know more about the country than many Americans.)
The most time-consuming item is the Queen’s wardrobe. On this trip, as on all others, she will be stared at, movied, TV’d and appraised front, back and sides—from the instant she shows herself in the morning until the late hour she retires at night. Every minute of every hour she must look her best, for the cameras will catch the slightest slip-up. An ordinary girl can freshen up as she goes along; but the Queen of England on duty may never twitch her dress, straighten her stockings, repair her makeup, or keep everyone waiting while she retires to powder her nose.
Protocol demands that every dress be new; it would be considered discourteous to appear in Canada or the United States in a dress worn in another country—or even to appear in one city in a dress worn somewhere else. Each garment must be an original design, for the Queen must never wear a model worn by another woman.
The schedules of The Visit to the United States and Canada show a minimum of ten days on duty, and require as many as five changes a day to allow for day and evening, rain or shine, inside and out. This means a total of 50 dresses, and because every one must be perfect the instant it is worn, each will require three to five fittings—a total of 250 fittings superimposed on the Queen’s already crowded daily schedule.
The star numbers are the evening dresses. For these she summons Norman Hartnell, who made her Coronation dress. His job is one of extraordinary difficulty. He must bring out the distinction in the Queen’s trim, if petite, person, her natural grace and majesty and point up, besides, the romantic appeal that is a concomitant of crowns. His dresses must photograph well, be light-toned to ensure her being visible against the crowds. They must harmonize with the prevailing background. As the Queen looks well in yellow, it is a safe assumption that some of her U.S. creations will be designed to tone in with autumn foliage.
On top of all this, Hartnell must consider the competition of hundreds of other dresses. For instance, in the state visit to Paris this spring, the Queen was up against the smartest women in France, each with unlimited time and money with which to procure the dress of her life. For the ultimate function, the state banquet with the President of France, Hartnell designed a beautiful gown embroidered in pearls, topaz, and gold (all costume jewelry; real gems are worn on her person, never used on her dresses), showing the fleur-de-lis and poppies of France. It was a creation that could have drowned many women; but when Elizabeth appeared on the grand staircase of the Elysee Palace, her hair blazing with diamonds, her neck circled with an emerald-and-diamond necklace, her bosom crossed with the brilliant scarlet sash of the Legion of Honor, the women of Paris broke into a murmur of applause. The city asked permission to retain the dress. But it was not just the dress, or the jewels, or Elizabeth’s youth; it was the extraordinary bearing that transformed a pretty girl into a beautiful woman, radiating an authority and grace inherited from generations of England’s Kings and Queens.
Hartnell is also trying to please Philip, to whom, like any other woman, the Queen turns first and who, like any other husband, is capable of strange reactions. Once, viewing the sketch of a long dinner dress Philip picked up a pair of scissors, saying: “Let’s hack it off at the shins.” Made up street length, the dress remains one of Elizabeth’s favorites.
Daytime outfits pose a special problem. For example, the Queen looks well in a sheath dress; but she is continually getting out of cars before a battery of cameras, and it would ride up. A revealing photograph would only provoke an amused smile among Western peoples, but in the Asian stretches of the Commonwealth the effect would be deadly; the Queen would lose dignity. Since Elizabeth is not supposed to have legs, the hems of her dresses are heavily weighted. Most girls can hold down their skirts in a wind, but not the Queen. She must hold her purse (in her left hand) often, plus a bouquet—the flowers are generally damp and frequently drip down the front of her new dress—and keep the right hand free for handshaking and waving. Princess Margaret, watching her sister standing on a high platform at a ship launching, holding the bouquet in one hand, the bottle of champagne in the other, fighting off a Scottish gale meanwhile, remarked “Lilibet needs three hands today!” Every hat must have a device that keeps it clamped to the head whatever the weather. At a recent race meeting held in half a gale, the Queen was the only woman who never touched her hat, although she had to drive along the course in an open carriage.
”The Punctuality of Kings”: The Queen had four months to make ready for The Visit, and she needed that much time, since all the preparations had to be worked into a schedule already jam-packed with dates made long in advance. To give an idea of how congested the Queen’s time is, here is one average day’s schedule:
At 7:00 a.m., rain or shine, Bobo MacDonald wakens her mistress with a cup of tea. By 8:00 Elizabeth has bathed, dressed, read personal mail (envelopes from friends bear special markings), and gone through the newspapers. Then she turns on the radio for the BBC newscast. Breakfast with Philip at 8:30 is a light one, enlivened by pungent comments on the news from both sides.
Next comes a high spot with which nothing is allowed to interfere—part of the Queen’s everlasting struggle to hold onto a normal life—a carefree get-together with the children, Charles and Anne. Then at 9:15 Charles, first British heir not to have a private tutor, picks up his books, dons his school cap and goes off importantly to a modest school in West London. Elizabeth now takes time out to make her daily telephone calls to her mother and sister. (Buckingham Palace has a big switchboard with private wires and devices, which enable her to speak instantly to anyone in her family and the government without operators overhearing.)
Then she hurries off to her gray-green office, where Private Secretary Sir Michael Adeane is already waiting with the day’s program and a mountain of papers. In nothing flat the two are absorbed in government reports, memoranda, general mail. As usual, the letters contain many requests, some heartbreaking, for royal help or guidance. The humblest Commonwealth citizen anywhere in the world may write directly to the Queen on any matter, knowing that his letter will be read the day it arrives and channeled to the appropriate department. While the Queen takes no direct action, letters bearing a footnote: “The Queen hopes … ” get instant results.
At 10:30 the Queen receives Major Milbank, Master of the Household—no empty title, for Buckingham Palace contains 614 rooms and requires 200 people to run it. The Queen keeps track of every detail in her own houses—the hiring and firing of maids, the purchase of new drapes, the food bills, the incessant repairs. Buckingham Palace is an enormous, damp, insufficiently heated museum, and the lower floors smell of decades of boiled cabbage and Brussels sprouts. The whole palace is crammed with thousands of treasures, some hideous, some lovely, tons of silver to clean, acres of rugs to vacuum, scores of open fireplaces to stoke, and some 300 heirloom clocks to be kept wound. In this vast barrack the Queen and Prince Philip occupy a small suite overlooking the palace gardens, complete with an electric fitted kitchen for private meals. The Queen makes a daily visit to the main kitchens, a quarter of a mile from the six dining rooms. She checks the daily menus, watches the prices (she has to pay all bills from her own pocket), works out the seating when there are guests, inspects the table minutely before they arrive.
At 11:15 comes Lord Tryon, Keeper of the Privy Purse. The Queen has mistakenly been called the world’s richest woman. She does receive an annuity, paid by British taxpayers, of £475,000 ($1,190,000).
This sounds glamorous, but she never sees any of her income. She has to maintain huge establishments, whether they are publicly or privately owned, and pass them on, swept and garnished, to her successor. She must pay wages to thousands of people, contribute to many charities, even pay for her own travel tickets. Philip has taken over much of the administration of the huge estates. By streamlining administration, putting farms on a profit-making basis (even birds shot at Balmoral are sold), and introducing laborsaving machinery, he achieves the miracle of keeping costs lower than they were 50 years ago.
It is now 11:30 a.m., and over a cup of coffee Elizabeth goes over her nonofficial mail with Lady-in-Waiting Lady Rose Baring, who will answer it ceremoniously in longhand. Lady Rose reports to her: four dresses are ready for fitting … at this afternoon’s function it will be Sir Charles Ponsonby’s little granddaughter who will present a special bouquet featuring every national flower of the Commonwealth … the jewelers are troubled about a necklace setting, and what time tomorrow would be convenient for shampoo and manicure? … Coffee finished, the Queen moves back to the desk, works alone on her boxes until noon.
At 12 o’clock Elizabeth starts a series of 15-minute “audiences,” granted to people of all walks of life who have some outstanding achievement to their name. If you had an appointment with her, you would be received precisely on time—”the punctuality of kings.” A secretary would have briefed the Queen on your business, your family, your hobbies; and as you were shown into her study, she would come forward, smiling, to shake hands. Women first make a brief “bob,” men a slight bow. You would be asked to sit in one of the comfortable armchairs. No one else would be present. There would be no interruptions, you would address her as “Ma’am”—”Your Majesty” is used only at formal functions. (President Truman, whose daughter is about the Queen’s age, called her “dear,” to her surprise and pleasure.)
It is etiquette to let the Queen lead the conversation, partly because most visitors are too nervous to do so, and partly because she does not want to be trapped in some troublesome discussion. If she asks questions, she wants plain replies—her time is too crowded for circumlocution. But her manner would be relaxed, interested, and friendly. Her light, pleasant voice would charm you, you would relax, too, but you would have no impulse to presume on her informality. Her inches may be few, but her stature as The Queen is unassailable.
After about 14 minutes she would rise casually. Years of practice enable her to terminate a visit so tactfully that visitors sometimes imagine that they have done it themselves. She would shake hands unhurriedly; leave you with the impression that she was sorry to see you go. You would bow, turn around, walk away, grateful that Elizabeth’s visitors, unlike Queen Victoria’s, are not required to back out.
At 1:00, the Queen and Philip entertain a departing ambassador at lunch. Both are immensely interested in all he has to say and both amaze him with their knowledge of his country. By 2:00 they are back in their rooms changing their clothes. Downstairs, two brown Rolls-Royces flying the royal standard creep up to the Queen’s Door and ladies-in-waiting and equerries assemble for the afternoon’s engagement.
A Royal Visit: Today’s event is unusually important. It celebrates the reconstruction of a famous building destroyed by bombs. It is the headquarters of the Royal Empire Society (significantly proposing to change its name to Royal Commonwealth Society). Its rebuilding has been made possible by people of all faiths, races, creeds, colors, by gifts running from pennies to entire rooms paneled in rare Commonwealth woods. The Queen and Philip have expressed the wish to look over every inch of it, the rooms where white will sit beside black, Hindu beside Jesuit, Polynesian bishop beside Canadian miner, where neighborliness is on a world scale.
Punctual to the minute, the Queen, dressed in blue Thai silk and off-the-face hat, followed by Philip in tailcoat and striped trousers, goes down to the cars. As the party drives up to the building, unescorted, office windows boil with faces, pedestrians wave, men raise hats, bobbies hold back the crowd. Elizabeth and Philip, beaming, walk up the spotless carpet and shake the first hands.
From here on, their progress is typical. It seems relaxed, unhurried, but this is deceptive. Preparations for this visit have taken weeks. Palace officials have helped to rehearse each move, worked out who stands where, allotted so many minutes to each room, approved formal presentations, which are completely without snobbery—bishops and high commissioners share honors with clerks and porters. Elizabeth and Philip move smoothly from floor to floor, taking their time—the Queen will never rush through something others have taken pains to prepare. They bow, smile, pause to chat. They operate as a perfect team—the Queen ahead, rather formal, Philip a few paces behind. If the Queen gets stuck, he moves in smoothly, making jokes, asking questions, enabling her to break off and keep to the schedule. From this meeting men will go back to the ends of the earth saying, “The Queen asked after—”; “Prince Philip sent a message to—.” It is a technique composed of long practice, genuine interest, and good manners.
Two hours later the Queen, still smiling and interested, gets back to the main entrance. She unveils a plaque, signs a visitors’ book, shakes more hands, accepts the bouquet from the little girl (remembering her name) and, still on time, gets back into her car. Fifteen minutes later her shoes kicked off, a cup of tea beside her, she is hard at work at her desk.
From 5:00 to 6:30 is another period sacred to the children’s romp, supper, baths, and bedtime stories. If the Queen has an early evening engagement, she dresses first to avoid cutting the children short; then she and Philip go their separate ways—he to a formal dinner of a regiment of which he is Colonel-in-Chief, she to an equally formal dinner given by a society raising money for medical research. Both will eat lightly, drink practically nothing, and start for home about 10:30, mindful that 7:00 a.m. the next morning will bring the start of another long day.
An Evening Off: Sometimes, perhaps one evening in 20, she and Philip can dine alone, but during dinner the regular report will come in describing that evening’s debate in Parliament, and the familiar “clop-clop” may signal more boxes. If they are urgent, she deals with them. If not, she puts up her feet, fixes two cushions behind her, and relaxes. On these off-nights Philip may dress in flannels and an open tennis shirt—a revolt against the eternal white-tie-and-tails of public functions. They may play canasta, or argue like any other man and wife over which TV program to turn on. He likes prizefights; she can’t stand them. They compromise on prizefights.
On Saturdays, if they are lucky, Philip, Elizabeth, and the two children and a Scotland Yard man will pile into Philip’s green Lagonda sports car and drive unescorted some 30 miles to Windsor Castle for the weekend—but still pursued by the boxes. At least twice a month the must take a two or three day trip to some royal borough, regiment, air station, or fleet base, show themselves, make speeches, shake hands.
In exchange for submission to this pitiless grip of endless time schedules, there are, of course, great compensations: clothes, jewels, service, influence, amusing and intelligent companions, and inside knowledge of world events.
Recently there has been some criticism in the British press about the extent to which the Queen’s circle of Palace friends and advisors attempts to shield her from the public and from modern British life. But it is noteworthy that none of this criticism was directed at Elizabeth herself. Deservedly, she had the consciousness of being loved by Britons of all ages and stations.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of Windsor has had little youth—most of it was consumed in the harsh training of a Queen—but she has made herself part of the new generation just now coming of age. She makes it her business to move constantly among people who are grappling with the tremendous problem of rebuilding from the ruin of war. Their houses, factories, roads, rails, and rain-battered island can still only produce one quarter of the food and raw materials they need. Even the tools are worn—the per capita production of a British workman is only half that of an American, largely because our men have twice the machine horsepower at their elbows. Perhaps worst of all, the huge dollar investments that might now buy tools were all sold to pay for the weapons of World War II.
Elizabeth and her young countrymen know that salvation does not lie in more dollar loans, but in a hardheaded drive to duplicate the methods that have made the United States the most efficient user of manpower in the world. To that end, she loses no chance to promote closer ties between the Commonwealth and the United States. “What the world now needs most is a solid bridge between East and West,” she has said. “The British Commonwealth is surely such a bridge.”
Her immediate part in building the bridge is to set an example by coming here, to play her part with intelligence and grace, and, above all, to do her job with earnest care and forethought. Behind the headlines, the pictures, the speeches, and fanfare of The Visit will be the untiring work of a young woman who leaves nothing to chance, and who has a passionate devotion to duty.
Thanks to her work behind the scenes, everything will seem effortless. Her plane will touch the Washington runway just as the President steps from his car. It will taxi up to him, the door will open, the guns will boom, the band will play, and Elizabeth II, smiling, fresh, assured—and in a gust-proof dress—will walk down the ramp and shake Mr. Eisenhower’s hand—on time to the minute.