Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret's Costumes from Wartime Christmas Plays Are Going on Display

·3 min read
Princess enjoyed playing roles in pantomimes held every Christmas Elizabeth is shown here; left; as Aladdin; Margaret Rose taking Princess Roxana part.
Princess enjoyed playing roles in pantomimes held every Christmas Elizabeth is shown here; left; as Aladdin; Margaret Rose taking Princess Roxana part.

Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

Pieces from Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret's "dramatic" pasts are going on display.

From November 25 until January 31, 2022, visitors to Windsor Castle will have the chance to see six surviving costumes worn by the teenage princesses during World War II-era Christmas plays. Brought together for the first time, the costumes will be displayed in the Waterloo Chamber, where the pantomimes were originally performed 80 years ago.

The then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret helped stage and performed in a series of pantomimes from 1941 though 1944 to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund, which supplied knitting wool to make comforters for soldiers.

The pieces include outfits from an Aladdin pantomime, where the future Queen played the title role wearing a gold brocade and turquoise jacket with turquoise dungarees and matching hat. Meanwhile, Princess Margaret wore a red silk dress and matching jacket to play Princess Roxana.

Other costumes featured include a long-sleeved pink satin and lace dress worn by Elizabeth to play Lady Christina Sherwood in a 1944 performance of Old Mother Red Riding Boots. She later donned a chintz shirt, trousers and sunhat for a seaside scene in which Princess Margaret wore a blue taffeta dress with cream lace bloomers to play The Honourable Lucinda Fairfax. Three costumes worn in Old Mother Red Riding Boots will be on display for the first time.

Many of the costumes were designed by Rayne, which the Queen favored for many years when it came to her shoes (her wedding day was just one of many special occasions when she wore Rayne shoes). To this day, the luxury shoe label still supplies the Queen with shoes and holds a Royal Warrant for doing so. The British company was originally established in 1885 as theatrical costumiers, making costumes, wigs, props and stage shoes.

"I had no idea that Rayne made costumes for royal pantomimes. I am very pleased and honoured as well as somewhat surprised," Nick Rayne, the founder's great grandson who now runs the family business, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

"However it all makes sense when one analyzes it," he continues. "From 1920 onwards, Rayne's shoe and accessory business for society ladies, which had been an offspring of the theatrical side of the business, thrived and went on to surpass it, but during World War II both the shoe and theatrical sides of the business often worked in tandem — like in this instance."

Kate Middleton, Prince William, family
Kate Middleton, Prince William, family

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte and Prince George

Pantomimes are a slapstick-style show, which is a family tradition around Christmas in Britain. Typically based on fairy tales, the farcical musicals can be laced with some innuendo-laden rhymes and songs and require frequent raucous interventions from the audience. They often have older men playing female parts, such as the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, or young women playing male leading roles like Peter Pan.

Last December, Kate Middleton and Prince William treated their three children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — to a pantomime performance at the London Palladium. The family of five walked the red carpet together before heading up to their box seats to enjoy the show.

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"It's wonderful to be back here in the West End and see theaters reopening their doors," William said in an onstage speech. "Catherine, George, Charlotte, Louis and I are all really looking forward to the show."

Addressing essential workers in the audience, William added, "You have given your absolute all this year, and made remarkable sacrifices. So too have your families, who I'm sure have seen far less of you than they would have liked. It's lovely that you are all here together tonight. You are representative of the huge number of people across the U.K. who have stepped forward to make a difference this year in so many crucial ways. The country owes you a huge debt of gratitude."

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