Queen led ‘carefree’ life in Malta before taking throne — ‘Always wanted a samba!’

Queen discusses reaching her Platinum Jubilee

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This year, the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne. Festivities culminate this weekend with a special, four-day royal extravaganza. Her Majesty is the first British monarch to reach the milestone, making the nationwide celebrations particularly poignant. 

Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI. 

In the years before this, then-Princess Elizabeth led a relatively “normal life” with her new husband, Prince Philip. 

From 1949 to 1951, the couple lived in Valletta, the capital of Malta, where the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed with HMS Magpie. 

According to veteran royal photographer Ian Lloyd, Elizabeth enjoyed a “carefree existence” as a naval officer’s wife. 

Writing for the Mail on Sunday in 2015, he said: “Away from the pressure of a watching public at home, Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, enjoyed a genuinely carefree existence on Malta”

Lady Pamela Hicks, 93, told Mr Lloyd that the future Queen immersed herself in a life of shopping, sightseeing, gossiping and dancing the samba.

She said: “They were magical days of endless picnics, sunbathing and waterskiing.

“’The Princess really loved Malta because she was able to lead a normal life, wander through the town and do some shopping, and whenever the [British Navy] fleet came in we would rush to the Barrakka [the public gardens on the seafront] to see it — which was always a fantastic sight.

“’It was the only place that she was able to live the life of a naval officer’s wife, just like all the other wives.”

Lady Pamela is the younger daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last viceroy of India, who ruled it for King George VI, our last king-emperor, and Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s cousin.

In a letter to his elder daughter Patricia, Lord Mountbatten wrote: “She [the Queen] dances quite divinely and always wants a Samba when we dance together and has said some very nice remarks about my dancing.”

In 1950, after the birth of Princess Anne, Elizabeth had returned to Malta. 

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That December, she was joined by her sister Princess Margaret who was known to love “a good party”. 

At night, the royal sisters would head to the Hotel Phoenicia, which opened in 1947, and there, the young Princesses perfected their Samba.

Lady Pamela said: ‘The Phoenicia was very new then, and the only smart hotel, and so the balls and dances would nearly always be held there. 

“You also dined there – it was the only sort of luxury. 

“It served very good dinner and there was a lovely ballroom. 

“It was the exciting new place. There was also a nightclub at the Marsa polo ground. 

“I suppose it was just one of the polo club buildings turned into a club. There were some dances held there.”

The Queen has described her time in Malta during the late Forties and early Fifties as “the happiest days of my life”.

Due to her father’s progressively worsening health, Elizabeth had taken over many of George VI’s duties. 

George tragically died at the age of 56 when his daughter was abroad on a royal visit, and his death changed the lives of the royal couple forever, as the pair cut their trip short to make the long journey back home, where Elizabeth was greeted for the first time as Queen. 

Her accession marked the beginning of a new era.

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