Baby Princess Elizabeth was not expected to be Queen

·2-min read
The Duke and Duchess of York with their baby daughter Princess Elizabeth (PA) (PA Archive)
The Duke and Duchess of York with their baby daughter Princess Elizabeth (PA) (PA Archive)

At the time of Princess Elizabeth’s birth, no-one thought she would ever be queen.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary arrived on April 21 1926 at her maternal grandparents’ home, 17 Bruton Street in London’s Mayfair, delivered by caesarean section in the early hours of the morning.

She was the first child of the Duke of York, who was to become King George VI on his brother Edward VIII’s abdication, and Elizabeth, Duchess of York, known in her later years as the Queen Mother.

Elizabeth was born third in line to the throne.

The birth came a week or so earlier than expected and it was noted that the Duchess of York had been to the theatre only a few days before the arrival.

As was the tradition with royal deliveries, the home secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, was summoned to the house where the duchess lay – even though the 1926 General Strike was looming, and the dispute was taking up all his time.

He waited in the next room.

According to royal author Sarah Bradford, it was a “difficult birth” and “Elizabeth was a breech baby, her mother tiny and small-boned”.

The princess’s birth attracted the attention of the public and the press.

A statement by her doctors revealing that a “certain form of treatment” (Caesarean) had been resorted to caused both excitement and anxiety.

After she was safely delivered, the princess’s first act, according to a Time magazine article in 1926, was to yawn at Sir William.

The home secretary conveyed the news of the birth by special messenger to the Lord Mayor.

On the day of the birth, the Times carried a report which said: “The Press Association is officially informed that her Royal Highness the Duchess of York was safely delivered of a princess at 2.40 this morning. Both mother and daughter are doing well.”

The news was announced in the Court Circular and the Telegraph, which said King George V and Queen Mary welcomed “with great pleasure” Elizabeth’s birth and had been to visit their new granddaughter at Bruton Street.

Time magazine said two other prestigious visitors, Queen Maud of Norway and Louise, Princess Royal, narrowly avoided a serious accident after their car collided with a taxi near Knightsbridge.

Crowds gathered in Bruton Street to cheer the royal visitors and in the hope of catching a glimpse of the new princess.

Princess Elizabeth was named after her mother and two queens – her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and paternal grandmother, Queen Mary.

She was christened in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace in May 1926 by Cosmo Lang, the then Archbishop of York, with King George V and Queen Mary, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Connaught, the Earl of Strathmore and Lady Elphinstone as her godparents.