Postcard featuring a photograph of the duke and duchess of york with their eldest daughter, princess elizabeth, aged about two. Photo: marcus adams. The royal ballet school special collections.

Queen Elizabeth and her history at White Lodge

This year Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee commemorating 70 years as monarch. The Queen and the Royal Family have strong connections and an extensive history with the School, particularly with our White Lodge building.

A first home

The Queen’s parents, Albert, Duke of York and his new bride, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, lived at White Lodge after their marriage in 1923. The grand staircase leading from the Salon to the garden was installed in preparation for their residency which has since become a distinctive feature of the building. It was Queen Mary, mother of the future King George VI, who suggested that her son and his wife should make White Lodge their first home as it was a place that held many happy childhood memories for her. Her fondness for the house is expressed in an extract from her diary: ‘At 12.45 we returned to White Lodge to Luncheon with Bertie and Elizabeth. We went all over the house which they have made very nice!’

A royal birth

When she was born in 1926, Queen Elizabeth II’s birth certificate gave White Lodge as her parents’ home address. There is a photograph of The Queen as a baby being held by her mother on the steps of the building. However, in 1927, King George V granted a life lease of White Lodge to Lord and Lady Lee of Fareham as the building had become inconvenient for the Yorks. A letter from their private secretary stated: ‘they find the White Lodge an impossible residence at the moment.’ It was ‘altogether too far from London’ and due to numerous sightseers, they hardly dared ‘put their noses outside’ as all privacy had ‘ceased to exist.’ That year, they moved from White Lodge to 145 Piccadilly, taking several tapestries and a chandelier from the building with them. Four stained glass panels from two of the windows were also moved to Buckingham Palace.

Becoming our School

In 1954 White Lodge was acquired for students of The Royal Ballet School up to the age of 16. Work was done in the building over two years and by 1956 the Salon was transformed into a dance studio and the former stables were turned into academic classrooms. The provision of a fully-residential vocational ballet school at White Lodge enabled the proper recruitment, education and training of young dancers. This helped to reduce the obstacles sometimes presented by family circumstances or geographical location.

Queen elizabeth and her history at white lodge
Postcard of white lodge in richmond park, ‘the residence of their royal highnesses the duke and duchess of york’, showing the great west front with the newly-built exterior staircase leading from the salon to the gardens, c1923. Photo: sport and general. By kind permission, the hearsum trust.

Top image: Postcard featuring a photograph of the Duke and Duchess of York with their eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, aged about two. The family had moved out of White Lodge in the summer of 1927 when the future Queen Elizabeth II was around 14 months old. Photo: Marcus Adams. The Royal Ballet School Special Collections.