27 May 2022 to 8 January 2023

IWM London

Free event with general admission

Throughout her 70-year reign and in the decades before, Her Majesty The Queen has lived through times of conflict, maintaining an enduring relationship with the armed forces and honouring those affected by war at home and across the world.

Marking the Platinum Jubilee this spring, IWM London will present a rich programme that, for the first time in the museum’s history, explores the role of The Royal Family in conflict, tracing The Queen’s personal experience of war through poignant items, including rarely seen film and photography, in IWM’s collections.

As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen’s first public duties were during the Second World War, which broke out when she was 13 years old. Upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, she became the first woman in The Royal Family to enlist as a full-time member of the armed services. Since then, The Queen has supported those who serve and veterans of conflict in her role as Head of the Armed Forces, a post that continues a long royal military tradition.

New research into IWM’s photography archive demonstrates just how keenly The Queen’s role as monarch has been shaped by her wartime experiences. This relationship between crown and conflict will be explored through IWM’s collections, bringing human stories to the foreground and providing a unique lens through which to join the national moment.

Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime

HM The Queen inspecting the Royal Guard of Royal Marines from HMS NEWFOUNDLAND during her visit to the ship. Front Rank: Right to left: Sergeant Balding, of Goodmayes, Essex; Marine Case, of Bridgewater; Marine Wright of Edinburgh. Rear Rank: Right to left: Marine Wintle, of Nottingham (partly out of picture); Marine Pattit of Hull; Marine Nicholls of Derby; Marine Merritt of Deal, Kent; Corporal Burton of Norwich.
© IWM A 32912

Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime

At IWM London, Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime is a new exhibition of poignant photographs exploring the breadth and scope of The Queen’s role in times of war.

Drawing from IWM’s extensive image archive, this closely focused exhibition of 18 photographs will chart The Queen’s experience of war, from growing up in the Second World War and serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), to carrying out important public duties involving the armed forces. Newly digitised photographs include an image of The Queen dressed in overalls and cap while working on a vehicle during her time in the ATS and captured with her father King George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth during a visit to airborne forces in 1944.

Alongside these, a more contemporary selection of images will show The Queen carrying out official duties such as meeting with members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and leading the annual Service of Remembrance.

Royals in Wartime

Princess Mary's Gift Fund box containing a packet of tobacco and carton of cigarettes.
© IWM EPH 9380

Royals in Wartime

A dedicated trail of historic objects on display across five gallery spaces at IWM London will explore the Royal Family’s long-standing and intimate association with the British armed forces and its key role in times of war and conflict.

Starting with a Princess Mary Gift Fund box which was sent to those serving at Christmas in 1914, this trail will guide visitors through time and space, featuring stops in IWM’s brand-new Second World War Galleries and finishing with contemporary objects from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Royal Family in Wartime

Royal Family in Wartime publication front cover

The Royal Family in Wartime

Published 12 May 2022

Showcasing over fifty photographs from IWM’s vast collections, this new publication marking the Platinum Jubilee features several rarely published photographs of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. These images demonstrate – often in vivid colour – how the connection between royalty and the armed forces is so enduring, illustrating the many and varied ways that members of Britain’s Royal Family, from King George V to the Duke of Cambridge, have played their part in wartime over the past century.

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Watch on

Watch on

In April 1944, Princess Elizabeth turned 18. Her teenage years had been against the backdrop of the Second World War. Elizabeth was determined to ‘do her bit’ for the war effort, as so many of her peers were. Within a year of turning 18, Elizabeth would sign up for the Auxiliary Territorial Service. It was an unprecedented decision – this would make her the first woman in the Royal Family to become a full-time member of the armed services.

In this video, see newly-discovered footage of the Princess in the ATS, as curator Kate Clements explains why Queen Elizabeth signed up for war work.