‘I was among the last 400 girls arriving at Buckingham Palace to make our formal curtseys to the Queen.’
Cambridgeshire – September 1957
The Cambridge Buffet Express to King’s Cross was waiting to depart Littleport Station, impatiently puffing out columns of smoke into the grey September sky.
A whistle blew as Elizabeth Campbell stepped on to the platform. Her fingers trembled inside her leather gloves and she felt a little lightheaded, her heart fluttering underneath the bodice of her circle dress.
She bent her head, to place her smooth cheek against the dry, wrinkled jowls of her Great-Aunt Sarah. The first and last time they made physical contact. Elizabeth snatched her head away; she hated the woman with a vengeance. The feeling was mutual.
‘Go to the city and find yourself a husband, Elizabeth dear, and one with some money. The last thing any woman wants in this life is a beastly job and The Debutantes’ House is the very best place to mould you into marriageable material.’
Stepping aboard the First Class carriage, Elizabeth turned to wave goodbye to her aunt, but she had already left the platform. A broad smile rippled across her face and the words good riddance, you old battle-axe, I’m finally getting away from you, escaped her lips.
Stowing her small suitcase in the rack above her head, Elizabeth took her seat as the train chugged out of the station, leaving Cambridgeshire without a backward glance and no emotional ties.