On Monday the 19th of September, Queen Elizabeth will be laid to rest at Westminster Abbey. This day marks the moment when a lifetime of adventure as Britain’s longest serving monarch will be gone forever. Younger generations have grown up with an image of the Queen as an old fashioned, little, old lady with a permanent hairstyle, set like a small, fluffy, white cloud. Yet, the older generations knew a Queen who was brave, bold, active and adventurous. One who was not an icon of an unbending and unrelatable monarchy but one who served her country and performed her duty – all whilst carving out her own rules. Instead of simply standing like a symbolic figurehead of a ship, this was a woman who looked the world squarely in the eyes and charted her own course. Our Queen was a captain.
The Queen was just thirteen years old when War broke out in Great Britain. Eighty two years and five days prior to the Queen’s death this year, on September 13th 1940, five bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace as part of Germany’s Blitzkrieg campaign. The royals were unharmed by the attack. The Queen Mother was reported to have said at the time, “I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye.” The then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were amongst the three million people evacuated from cities during the War. The King and Queen remained at Buckingham palace, in London, despite the dangers and the bombs, out of respect and solidarity with everyone living through the Blitz. This was the foundation our late Queen was built from. Not just one of privilege and protection but one of action and determination.
This determination shines through when we think that at the age of eighteen, with the War still waging, the then teenage Princess Elizabeth insisted upon joining the women’s branch of the British Army. Furthermore, King George made sure that his daughter was not given any special rank in the Army. Princess Elizabeth had to earn her promotions. In March 1945, Elizabeth began her training as a truck mechanic, undertaking a driving and vehicle maintenance course at Aldershot, qualifying a month later on April 14. This grit, drive and knowledge lasted a lifetime.
In the true spirit of adventure, when peace in Europe and the end of the War was announced, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret snuck out to join the night of celebrations. Proudly wearing her military uniform, cap drawn low to shield her eyes and help her blend into the crowd, the Princess was able to rejoice anonymously with the people of London; as a British subject, a soldier and as one of them. Years later, the Queen reflected, “I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
It was just seven years later that this young woman, at the age of 25, would become Queen of England. The most famous and remarkable of all the late Queen’s adventures was her trip to Kenya, at the beginning of 1952. For it was here, whilst staying at the TreeTop Lodge in Aberdare National Park, that Elizabeth went to sleep as a Princess and woke up as a Queen. Fellow hotel resident Jim Corbett, famously wrote in the hotel’s log book: “for the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day as a Princess and …she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen — God bless her.”
So began Elizabeth’s time as not only our longest reigning monarch but the most well-travelled British monarch in history. Queen Elizabeth visited every single country in the Commonwealth and many more besides, clocking up an incredible 290 state visits to 117 different nations. The same year as her coronation, Queen Elizabeth said in her 1953 Christmas broadcast, recorded in Auckland, New Zealand: “I set out on this journey in order to see as much as possible of the people and countries of the Commonwealth and Empire. I want to show that the Crown is not merely an abstract symbol of our unity, but a personal and living bond between you and me.” This was a woman who was a young mother, still reeling and grieving from the recent death of her father. This woman went into action and began her life long work in earnest the day after hearing the news of her father’s death. This action and drive to become a strong and empowering monarch saw her travelling to and delivering that Christmas broadcast from the otherside of the world.
All the years the Queen had spent exploring and meeting her subjects and those of other countries, meant that the Queen is thought to have circumnavigated the globe a staggering 42 times. No mean feat for the little old lady with the handbag and hat perched atop the fluffy, cloud head. When Britain welcomed their new, young Queen the country was still rationing after the war. The thought of flying off to far-flung countries as frequently and simply as we do today, was utterly inconceivable for most people. However, the same decade that Elizabeth ascended into her role as Queen also saw the dawn of the ‘package Holiday’. The Queen’s commitment and determination to visit as many of her subjects, allies and other cultures was widely publicised. As Britain finally said goodbye to rationing and technology advanced, the Queen inspired and encouraged us all to expand our horizons; diversify and deepen our cultural experiences and seek exploration and adventure.
From 1953 to 1997 the Royal Yacht Britannia was the Queen’s preferred mode of travel.
During the 44 years of royal service, the yacht clocked up a staggering one million miles sailing as far afield as the Caribbean and South Africa. This vessel not only provided transport but safe, secluded sanctuary and accommodation whilst travelling. Like the night the two princesses snuck into the city incognito to celebrate V.E day, the Royal Yacht Britannia gave the opportunity for the Queen to be less of a monarch and more of an Elizabeth.
As well as planes another form of Queenly adventure came in the mode of the Royal Train. This train came with chefs, lace pillows and a strict ‘no bumpy track’ rule during the scheduled 7.30am bath time. Like the legendary train, The Orient Express, this too sounds both blissful and the stuff of dreams. However, this Queen of grit and not just glory was more than prepared to drop the luxuries for practicalities. Apparently, during a blizzard in 1981, the Queen got stuck and stranded near Bristol and so turned on the doorstep of a local B&B, asking for a room. The shocked manager very sweetly gave the Queen his own top floor flat for the night.
The Queen’s final adventure was her last tour, a state trip to Malta in 2015. Poignantly, this last trip overseas was with Prince Phillip, returning to where they lived happily together in Malta, when they were first married in 1947. The Queen’s final journey was to Balmoral in Scotland. The place where both her beloved Prince Phillip passed away, followed two years later by the Queen, Elizabeth -a subject, a soldier and a Captain of her own Ship; Brittania.
As we say goodbye to our Queen, so too do we say goodbye to Dorset Adventure Park for one more summer. This adventure park will be back in all its glory next summer for more outdoor fun. We will dive into the lakes, bounce atop the wibit inflatables and battle our way through 50 obstacles on the mud trail.
Words by Olivia Lowry.