And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to: The Kings Speech.
In light of Sunday night’s Academy Award declaration, what better historical couple to feature than Bertie and Liz?
When Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, Queen Elizabeth, outwardly composed but finding it difficult to adjust to the fact that she and her husband were now reigning over a country again at war so soon after 1918, sat down to record her impressions. “My last cup of tea in peace! My last bath at leisure; and all the time one’s mind working on many thoughts. Chiefly of the people of this country—their courage, their sense of humor, their sense of right & wrong—how will they come through the wicked things that war lets loose. One thing is, that they are at their best when things are bad, and the spirit is wonderful.”
Stationed at Buckingham Palace with her family, the queen made it clear that evacuation was not an option, famously saying, “The children could not go without me, I could not possibly leave the King, and the King would never go.” It was not easy for the queen to combine her public duties with her love for her daughters. She was aware of how difficult it was to grow up in a nation at war, and she did all she could to preserve the normal pleasures of childhood for them.
On September 8, 1940, Buckingham Palace received its first direct hit by a delayed-action bomb. Some of the ceilings came down, but the main structure was not affected. Then, five days later, the king and queen were nearly killed. In a deliberate attack, a German bomber emerged from low clouds, flew straight up the Mall, and dropped a stick of bombs on the palace.
On the very afternoon of the attack, the king and queen drove to the East End of London, itself the target of repeated bombings. The queen was horrified and moved. “I really felt as if I was walking in a dead city, when we walked down a little empty street. All the houses evacuated and yet through the broken windows one saw all the poor little possessions, photographs, beds, just as they were left,” she wrote to her mother-in-law. “It does affect me seeing this terrible and senseless destruction. I think that really I mind it much more than being bombed myself.”
When victory was finally announced on May 8, 1945, tens of thousands of people gathered in front of Buckingham Palace. That evening the king, the queen, and the princesses appeared on the balcony—which had been surveyed to ensure that it was still structurally sound—together for the first time. The crowd, whose jubilation captured the feeling of a nation, clamored for the family to come back out again and again. As Churchill would later remark, “We could not have had a better king and queen in Britain’s most perilous hour.”