HAPPY & GLORIOUS
Churchill broadcasts to the nation and the Royal Family lead the celebrations
Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and the Royal Family threw themselves into the festivities with a little more gusto than was customary for the nation’s leaders. Formal duties had to be observed first. Churchill had lunch with the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace before broadcasting to the nation and Empire at 3pm.
Loudspeakers outside the Palace stretching to Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square relayed his words to the crowds. One eye-witness in Trafalgar Square said that as the PM spoke ‘… there was an extraordinary hush over the assembled multitude’.
‘The German war is therefore at an end,’ Churchill said. ‘Finally, almost the whole world was combined against the evildoers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts.
‘We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead.’ This was a reminder that British armed services were still fighting Japan in the Far East.
‘One of the most memorable nights of my life’ Princess Elizabeth
King George VI in naval dress appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to a huge burst of cheering. He was then joined by the Queen, Princess Elizabeth in her khaki Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform, and Princess Margaret.
The Prime Minister also got a rousing reception as he drove to the House of Commons, where he gave his ‘hearty thanks’ to MPs of all parties.
Churchill was again besieged as he drove back to Buckingham Palace, with the centre of London in gridlock thanks to the crowds. At 5.30pm the Royal Family stepped onto the balcony for a third time, joined by the cigar-waving PM.
A short while later he addressed a crowd of 50,000 in Whitehall from the balcony of the Ministry of Health:
‘In all our history, we have never seen a greater day. This is your hour. This is your victory. It is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole.’
A few hours later he would be back on the balcony joining in as the crowd sang Land of Hope and Glory, Churchill even turning to Guards’ band below and conducting it.
At 10.45pm, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret – escorted by Guards officers – secretly joined the crowds outside Buckingham Palace.
Their cousin, Margaret Rhodes, was with them and described the night: ‘It was a mass of people all cheering and saying, ‘Whoopee!’ We walked up to Leicester Square where everybody was kissing everybody and putting policemen’s helmets on their heads. Princess Elizabeth was wearing her ATS uniform with her hat well pulled down so that nobody could recognise her. It was just a wonderful night out.’
They danced in a conga line and did the hokey-cokey before rejoining the crowds outside the Palace.
Having enjoyed the good-natured mayhem of the jubilations, the Princesses rejoined their parents on the balcony. In all, the Royals appeared eight times to acknowledge the crowds that day.
Princess Elizabeth said later, ‘We stood outside and shouted, “We want the King”… I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.’
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