The young Elizabeth II: life before she was Queen

At the time of her birth, Elizabeth II was a princess who was never expected to succeed the throne. So how did she become queen? From her unconventional childhood to the crisis that made her a monarch, Kate Williams charts Elizabeth II's life within the royal family before she was crowned...

Princess Elizabeth 1939

In April 1926, Britain was on the brink of the General Strike called by the TUC. There had been an economic perfect storm: the postwar crash in coal prices, combined with the government putting Britain on the gold standard, had put mining under pressure. After a government commission recommended reducing miners’ wages, the stage was set for an all-out strike of miners and other workers covered by the TUC, including railway and transport workers.

But despite being in a crisis, the home secretary Sir William Joynson Hicks could not be excused witnessing the legitimacy of a royal baby. The Duke and Duchess of York – George V’s second son, Bertie and his wife, the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – were expecting their first child. Although the baby was not a direct heir to the throne, Sir William still had to travel to 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, a home owned by Bowes-Lyons, where the child was due to be born.

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