A Guiding Gift for the Royal Baby
On Friday, 29/4/1927, the Duke and Duchess of York (later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) visited Ballarat. They were greeted by Guides at the Arch of Victory where one of the smallest Brownies presented the Duchess with a doll dressed in Guide uniform as a gift for the baby Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II).
Ever since the Princess Royal, Mary, became President of the Girl Guide Association in 1920, the Guides have maintained close connections with the British Royal family. The connection was made closer still when, in 1937, Princess Margaret (aged 7) became a Brownie, and her sister, heiress presumptive Princess Elizabeth (aged 11), became a Guide . Elizabeth later became a Sea Ranger in 1943.
The royal nanny at the time, Marion Crawford, supported by parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, believed that the two little princesses should live as normal lives as possible. The princesses were excited about the idea of being treated as equals with ordinary girls.
Buckingham Palace Units
The 1st Buckingham Palace Guide Company was formed by Miss Synge and was composed of twenty Guides and fourteen Brownies who were all daughters of court officials and palace employees. Princess Mary (Elizabeth and Margaret's aunt), enrolled the girls herself. Princess Elizabeth cooked over a campfire, pitched tents, tied knots, and earned badges, just like any other Guide of her day.
In 1944, the Girl Guide Association presented Elizabeth with a camping set for her 18th birthday. In 1946 Elizabeth became Chief Ranger of the British Empire. When she married in 1947, two of her bridesmaids were former Guides.
Elizabeth wrote of her time as a Guide:
"I have fond memories of my years as a Sea Ranger, and of becoming Chief Ranger of the British Empire, and then Patron of the Guiding Association. While the core values remain constant, I have been delighted to watch it evolve, led by the ambitions and needs of the girls of today."
The royal Guide unit closed between 1940 and 1942 due to World War II. The girls were associated with a Balmoral Company unit until their own company reopened. In 1959, when the Queen's daughter, Princess Anne, was nine years old, she joined the royal Brownie unit. Princess Margaret's daughter also became a Brownie, joining the 7th Kensington Brownie Pack. After the death of the Princess Mary in 1965, the position of President of the Guides passed to Princess Margaret. When Margaret died in 2003, Elizabeth's daughter-in-law (wife of Prince Edward), HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, became President of GirlGuiding UK.