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Queen Elizabeth’s Childhood Playhouse

In the garden of Windsor’s Royal Lodge in Berkshire, England, tucked away from public view stands a miniature thatched cottage with white-washed walls. For the past eighty years, the Little House or Y Bwthyn Bach, has been the play den for the Queen and generations of royal children.

The playhouse was presented to Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret in March 1932 on behalf of ‘the people of Wales’ on the occasion of Elizabeth’s sixth birthday. At that time, Elizabeth’s parents were the Duke and Duchess of York, who were never in line for the throne. But when Prince Albert’s elder brother renounced the throne, the Duke reluctantly allowed himself to be crowed the King of England, sealing the fate of little Elizabeth.

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Princess Elizabeth standing in front of her playhouse.

The house was designed by architect Edmund Willmott and was fully-functional with a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom that came with very modern conveniences—for that time— such as hot and cold running water, electricity and even a heated towel rail. But everything was two-third the size. There were couches in the living room, an oak dresser, a tiny radio, a miniature blue and gold china set, a book case filled with little Beatrix Potter’s books, small curtains and blue carpets all made to order and to scale. In the kitchen, there was a working gas cooker and a small fridge, and little pots and pans. Even the miniature telephone was working. The house also had its own front garden with scaled down hedges and flower borders. 

The little Princess Elizabeth and her sister spent hours cleaning and tidying their tiny home. Elizabeth, in particular, reportedly developed a reputation for being exceptionally neat. Later, her children and then her grandchildren enjoyed playing in the house too.

Some years ago, the house underwent a refurbishing under the guidance of one of Queen Elizabeth’s grandchildren, Princess Beatrice, the daughter of Prince Andrew, when he along with his family moved into the Royal Lodge in 2004.

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King George VI with his daughters and their pet dogs outside The Little House. Princess Elizabeth is standing by the window. Princess Margaret is seated on the wall

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June 1936: Princess Margaret (left) and her sister Princess Elizabeth in front of miniature cottage Y Bwthyn Bach in the grounds of Royal Lodge, Windsor, with two of their dogs.

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Y Bwthyn Bach is transported from Cardiff to London in the early 1930s.

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The house nearly burnt to the ground when the thatched roof caught fire while the house was in transit. Here, workers are seen repairing the damage.

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