A Right Royal Panto!

The Olympic opening ceremony was memorable for many reasons, but none more so than the screen acting debut of Her Majesty, The Queen.

What the viewers may not have known is that Her Majesty, or  Princess Elizabeth as she was then,  is the veteran of three pantomimes- “Aladdin”, in which she played the title role, 'Cinderella', in which she played Prince Charming and “Old Mother Red Riding Boots” in which she played Lady Christina Sherwood.

Productions took place during the second world war in Windsor castle, where the Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret lived, while their parents carried on “business as usual” in war torn London, and Buckingham Palace.

Princess Elizabeth as Prince Charming and Princess Margaret as Cinderella - 1941

The Princesses also devised the pantomimes, aided by Hubert Tannar, the Headmaster of Windsor Royal School. The first productions 'Cinderella' was in December 1941, with Princess Elizabeth as Prince Charming, and Princess Margaret as Cinderella.

The second production “Aladdin” was in December 1943, with Princess Elizabeth as Principal Boy, and Princess Margaret as Princess of China!

I was delighted to acquire a rare copy of the programme recently. You don’t see them very often as they were sold for a shilling (5p) to the limited audience of pupils, friends and family who attended. My copy came by way of the family of a  Royal Dentist invited to the performance, and it is now carefully stored in the Ellacott archive!

“Old Mother Red Riding Boots” featured the Princesses, the Welsh Headmaster Hubert Tannar and pupils from the Royal School. It took place in 1944 on three nights- December 21st, 22nd and 23rd.

The venue was the Waterloo Chamber inside Windsor Castle. For many years now I have had the honour of being a blue badge guide to Windsor and Eton, and one of the “perks” of the training was being shown parts of the castle not on the usual tourist routes. I was aware that there had been three pantomimes staged in the Chamber, but I had no idea that still to this day, behind some of the huge portraits in the room, if you turn them around are illustrations and wall decorations used as part of the scenery for those pantomimes back in in the 1940's!

These pantos were not shoddy affairs as you can imagine. The principals and the pupils who comprised the chorus rehearsed for several weeks, with time off from lessons to attend run-throughs, and scenery was created by the Academy Award winning artiste, Vincent Korda.

Experts from the BBC were on hand to provide advice regarding sound, and costumes and wigs were supplied by Nathans (later Berman & Nathan). The orchestra of The Royal Horse Guards provided the music for this very Royal Pantomime.

In “Old Mother Red Riding Boots” Princess Elizabeth sang a hit number from the 1944 film “Going My Way” called “Swinging on a Star”. The pantomime had a Dame- played by Cyril Woods, with the comic “Sammy Suction” played by the headmaster himself, and even a panto horse called “Fairflint”!

Princess Margaret, Princess Elizabeth and Hubert Tannar - Red Riding Hood 1944 

So, if you thought Her Majesty gave Daniel Craig a run for his money in the performance stakes, you can see that her Royal pedigree contains our glorious, eccentric and wonderful Pantomime. Does one agree? Oh yes, one does!

This page was last updated 26th August 2012

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