Seeing the Queen today, you mightn’t easily imagine her as a cross-dressing Prince Charming belting out show tunes. However for four consecutive Christmases, royal photographer Lisa Sheridan documented the antics of the lively teenage Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose as they staged a series of musical pantomimes to liven up their war-time evacuation to Windsor Castle.

Sheridan says the pantomimes “grew quite naturally from the Princesses’ love of dressing up and dancing and Princess Margaret’s particular gift for mimicry.”  Although loosely based on traditional fairytales – Cinderella (1941), Sleeping Beauty (1942), Aladdin (1943) and Old Mother Red Riding Boots (1944) - they were devised, scripted and largely produced by the young princesses. They listened avidly to radio comedies (Tommy Handley’s ITMA was a favourite) and quizzed their parents about the latest London theatre tunes and jokes.

Budgets were carefully balanced as the shows supported the Palace Wool Fund and the sisters enjoyed “hunting for junk” around the castle with their father, King George VI.  Old curtains, boards and furniture were stitched and hammered and painted to create costumes and sets, transforming the stately Waterloo Chamber into a 400 seat private theatre.

The cast was picked from cousins, the local village school, other evacuees and officers’ children – but Castle staff was also enlisted to help backstage, with even Queen Elizabeth ready with a needle to sew repairs.

Lisa Sheridan first photographed the princesses in 1936 and, perhaps because she was a woman, struck up such a close and enduring relationship, gaining unprecedented access which photographers can only dream of today. Sheridan continued to photograph Elizabeth as she matured from a schoolgirl to become a mother and a Queen.

These pictures allow us to view these Royal Pantomime performances as if we were a member of the audience.

Sarah McDonald is a Curator at the Getty Images Hulton Archive.

  • 21st December 1941: The programme for a royal production of the Christmas pantomime 'Cinderella' at Windsor Castle, starring Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret Rose as Prince Florizel and Cinderella. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) dressed as Prince Charming with Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (1900-2002) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) as Cinderella during a royal pantomime at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 21 December 1941. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Scene during a royal pantomime at Windsor Castle with Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) as Prince Charming, and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) as Cinderella, Berkshire, Great Britain, 21 December 1941. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) dressed as Prince Charming with Princess Margaret (1930-2002) as Cinderella during a royal pantomime at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 21 December 1941. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Scene during a royal pantomime at Windsor Castle, with Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) as Prince Charming, and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) as Cinderella, Berkshire, Great Britain, 21 December 1941. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • 21st December 1941: Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) and Princess Elizabeth during a rehearsal of 'Cinderella, the first Royal pantomime at Windsor Castle. The two princesses are in costume for their parts. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • December 1943: The programme for a royal production of the Christmas pantomime 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, starring Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret Rose as Aladdin and the Princess. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • British Royalty, England, December 1943, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret playing parts in the pantomine Aladdin at Windsor Castle (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
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  • 15th December 1943: Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) in her pantomime costume as Aladdin at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Margaret (1930-2002) and Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), both in costume, pictured during a royal pantomime production of 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 15 December 1943. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Margaret (1930-2002) and Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), both in costume, go through their lines ahead of a royal pantomime production of 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 15 December 1943. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002), both in costume, pictured during a royal pantomime production of 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 15 December 1943. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002), both in costume, pictured ahead of a royal pantomime production of 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 15 December 1943. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Programme for the royal pantomime production of 'Aladdin', starring Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002), at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 15 December 1943. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • 15th December 1943: A royal production of the Christmas pantomime 'Aladdin' at Windsor Castle, starring Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret Rose (1930 - 2002) as Aladdin and the Princess. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • 23rd December 1944: Princess Elizabeth in a production of 'Old Mother Red Riding Boots'. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • 23rd December 1944: Princesses Margaret (1930 - 2002) and Elizabeth with Principles in 'Old Mother Red Riding Boots', a pantomime that is playing at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • 23rd December 1944: Princesses Margaret Rose (1930 - 2002) (right) and Elizabeth wearing elaborate dresses for 'Old Mother Red Riding Boots', the Christmas pantomime they are performing in at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Margaret (1930-2002) and Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), both dressed in elaborate gowns, pictured alongside a fellow performer during a royal pantomime production of 'Old Mother Red Riding Boots' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 22 December 1944. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002), both dressed in elaborate gowns, pictured during a royal pantomime production of 'Old Mother Red Riding Boots' at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 22 December 1944. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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  • Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret on stage performing during the Christmas pantomime 'Old mother red riding boots' at Windsor Castle, England on December 23, 1944. (Photo by Studio Lisa/Getty Images)
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