Skip to main content

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

December 4, 2013 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
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
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
ADVERTISEMENT