HM Queen Elizabeth II said that ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974) was her favorite film. She had been given the book of Swallows and Amazons as a girl and, according to Arthur Ransome, ‘said very nice things’ about his novels. He wrote to his mother saying that Queen Mary had purchased a copy of Swallows and Amazons in 1930. Elizabeth, The Queen Mother also ordered a set. Do they have first editions in the Royal Collection?
The Queen told the author Peter James that Swallows and Amazons was the first book she could remember reading. He has written about his time at Buckingham Palace meeting other authors here.
Archive photographs show The Queen at Girl Guides’ camp enjoying rowing and a Swallows and Amazons lifestyle, as you can see here. In this film clip, she looks a bit like Captain Nancy playing with her sister Peggy, a name that is short for Margaret:
Our late Queen kept a large flock of 200 racing pigeons at Sandringham all her life. This uncut Movietone footage shows the two princesses being shown a carrier pigeon. Could they have been influenced by Arthur Ransome’s book Pigeon Post?
In 1940, Claude Whatham, who went on to direct the original film of Swallows and Amazons, was commissioned by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose to paint a series of pantomime pictures on the walls of Windsor Castle. One can presume they had a chat. I have just been asked to provide photos for a new documentary for Channel 5. You can read about this wartime story on a previous post of mine here. She loved appearing in the three pantomimes that they put on, when she played the principal boy.
The Queen was able to visit Bowness-on-Windermere with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956
She visited Coniston and Tarn Hows in 1980 and returned to Bowness-on- Windermere with the Princess Royal in 2013 when they took the Tern up to Ambleside.
I feel that the Queen would have enjoyed Ransome’s sense of humour. A few of the amusing things she said are captured here:
HM King Charles loved Swallows and Amazons as a boy. I’ve read that it was his favourite book. I met him when speaking about otter conservation but did not mention the fact I had played Titty in the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons‘.
HRH The Queen Consort has also expressed a love for Swallows and Amazons, recommending it on her Reading Room site as one of her top six books for children.
‘When asked what her favourite children’s books are, the Duchess revealed them to be Moorland Mousie by Golden Gorse… and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome,’ which the Duchess described as “just a really good adventure story, full of a lot of imagination.” Hello magazine and Royal Central.
She also recalled her own experiences receiving new books as a child. “I still remember the intense excitement I felt as a child when choosing books to buy with my pocket money — Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons — and the joy of knowing that these precious books, clutched tightly in my hands, were my very own,” she wrote.
The Duchess of Cambridge is vaguely related to Arthur Ransome. His brother-in-law Hugo Lupton, was cousin to Kate’s great-grandmother Olive. You can read a little more here.
The Duke of Edinburgh endorsed what he called ‘the Swallows and Amazons spirit’. In 2014, Alan Hakim of The Arthur Ransome Society spotted a copy of The Big Six in his study aboard HMY Britannia. You can find a list of authors and well known people who love the books here.
Many thanks to members of the Arthur Ransome Group for help with this article.
Please add any more information in the comments below.
5 thoughts on “The late Queen and members of the Royal Family who love ‘Swallows and Amazons’”
There were several collections of photos of the Queen on TV yesterday, mainly covering her reign. One collection started when she was a small girl and included her as a tennager, looking very like Nancy Blackett in the 1974 film.
How interesting. I’d love to see that photo.
There is a whole evening of memories of the Queen on BBC 1 today. If you can record them, I am sure that the photos of her from a toddler will be repeated. You could freeze the film there and take a photo of the TV screen with a smart phone maybe.
Swallows and amazon’s book or film have touched so many people in so many ways be it older generation remembering their youth or a younger generation realising what is out ther for them .
I agree. I think this reinforces what a wide audience Swallows and Amazons touches. No matter what background or generation, the story is loved by all.