Pictures reveal the Queen's time as a Girl Guide

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret saluting at a march-past before a service in Windsor in 1938

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret saluting at a march-past before a service in Windsor in 1938 - Credit: Guide Association

Beautiful pictures of the Queen as a child are part of an exhibition put together by Norfolk Girlguiding and on show around the county this summer. 

The display shows a young Princess Elizabeth enjoying adventures as a Girl Guide and Sea Ranger, and in uniform with her little sister Princess Margaret. 

A special Buckingham Palace Guide company was set up so that 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth could experience the fun of being part of the international movement.  

Queen Elizabeth II punting on the lake at Frogmore when she was a Sea Ranger

The Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) punting on the lake at Frogmore in 1944 when she was a Sea Ranger - Credit: Supplied by Girlguiding

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) in a canoe at Frogmore, near Windsor

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) in a canoe at Frogmore, near Windsor - Credit: Supplied by Norfolk Girlguiding

And although she was never a member of a Norfolk Guide group, the county has lots of records of royal links with Guiding in its archives in Coltishall – Britain’s first purpose-built Girlguiding archives. 

Girlguiding Norfolk archivist Helen Green said: “Her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was very enthusiastic about Girl Guides, having previously been a district commissioner in Glamis, Scotland. She asked that a company be formed so her daughter was involved with a wide group of peers and had the opportunity to work as part of a team, and enjoy games, activities and challenges with other girls. The Queen was 11 at the time, and she has belonged to Guiding ever since!”  

When girls joined Guides back in the 1930s they began by working towards the Tenderfoot test. Helen said this would have involved Princess Elizabeth learning the Guide salute and promise, and some knot-tying skills. “She also enjoyed learning marching, first aid, camping – and the wide range of skills that involves including pitching tents, cooking on a fire, following trails and hiking and playing wide games. She also loved campfires, as did her dad, the King."

And which badges did the future Queen go on to win? Helen believes she was awarded child nurse, cook, dancer, interpreter, minstrel, swimmer and horse-rider.  

Most Read

Helen has put together the exhibition which traces the Queen’s Guiding history from the adventures of the young princess who joined the specially-launched 1st Buckingham Palace Company, through to her continued service as the 96-year-old patron of Girlguiding worldwide. 

The Girlguiding Norfolk County Archive Resource Centre on the Patteson Lodge Estate, Great Hautbois Road, Coltishall, is the first such archive in the country. Run by volunteers, it holds more than 30,000 items from more than a century of Guiding in Norfolk. 

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) knotting at Frogmore, near Windsor

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) knotting at Frogmore, near Windsor - Credit: Guide Association

Queen Elizabeth meeting Guides and Brownies during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977

Queen Elizabeth meeting Guides and Brownies during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977 - Credit:  Guide Association 

One of Helen's favourite exhibits is the Guide Promise Badge – awarded when a girl makes their Guide Promise and joins the movement.  

“The badge we have does not belong to Her Majesty, but it represents the promise she made as a Guide, as does every member, of whom there are 10 million in 150 countries around the world. The way the Queen has lived out her promise to do her duty to God has been quite outstanding, and what an incredible role model she is. 

“We often use the term, once a Guide, always a Guide and the Queen is still our patron now.” 

Helen said there was even a Guide Promise badge on the top tier of the Queen’s wedding cake. “It sums up everything that represents Guiding. The design of the badge, and also the wording of the promise has changed over time, keeping up to date with the needs of girls and young women of today, but it continues to be a source of inspiration every day.”  

Other Royal-related favourites in the archive include two logbooks from the Sandringham Guide Company – signed by the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. The sisters visited Sandringham Guides in 1939 when the future Queen was a Guide and her little sister was a Brownie. 

Princess Mary, the Queen’s aunt, became patron of Norfolk Guides in 1917 and president of the national Girl Guides Association in 1920. She helped set up Sandringham Guides in 1920 and the Norfolk archives include Christmas cards and signed books she sent them. 

Princess Elizabeth became a patrol leader and after finishing her time in Guides she joined the Sea Rangers – which still exist although no longer as part of Girlguiding. “She had a strong naval interest as her father had served in the Royal Navy,” said Helen. “She was also interested in a certain person training in the Navy!”  

Other treasures at the archive include Guiding uniforms from through the decades. “Our members just love dressing up in these, and taking part in some of the activities girls would have done,” said Helen, who grew up in Canada and was a Guide and Sea Ranger there. 

She has been Norfolk’s Girlguiding archivist for five years. “I got involved when we encouraged our members to take an interest in the heritage of Guiding through organising camps on the farm at Gressenhall as part of their Village at War event,” she said. 

There will be another Girlguiding camp at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum this summer. It will have a Royal theme with the chance for 21st century Guides to enjoy the kind of activities the young Princess Elizabeth took part in. The Royal Guiding exhibition will be on site too. 

Brownies enjoying the Royal Guiding exhibition

Brownies enjoying the Royal Guiding exhibition - Credit: Girlguiding Norfolk

The Royal Guiding exhibition, which was funded by The National Archives Testbed Fund, will be on display at: 

The Bishop of Norwich’s Garden, open in aid of Girlguiding Catton, Norwich, on July 17. 

Sandringham Flower Show on July 27. 

Worstead Festival, July 30-31. 

Gressenhall Rural Life Museum, August 25-30. 

The Girlguiding Norfolk Archive Resource Centre, as part of the Heritage Open Days, 10am-4pm, on September 10, 11, 17 and 18.  

The Archive Resource Centre at Coltishall is also open every Monday, 10am-4pm and at other times by appointment.