Betty recalls starring alongside Queen in pantoBy Becky Barnes
June 15, 2012
A woman whose father was a groundsman at Windsor Great Park performed in pantomimes for soldiers with princesses Margaret and Elizabeth.
Betty Jarvis, 77, of Dukes Ride, attended the Royal School, Windsor, where the royal sisters played the principal roles in 1943 and 1944.
Betty said: “We all loved taking part as we were off school for a few weeks practising.
“Elizabeth and Margaret played the main characters and the royal family would sit in the front row.”
At the age of eight Betty was in the chorus in Aladdin and at nine she danced and sang in Old Mother Red Riding Boots – a pantomime devised from lots of fairytales by the Welsh headmaster Mr Tanner.
She said: “The royal family were very down to earth and a couple of years later my mother sent me down to take sandwiches to my father.
“There was a crowd on horseback and Princess Margaret was there – I was well practised at my curtseys.
“If you didn’t curtsey to our headmaster in the street you would get told off.
“The princess said ‘Oh hello, I haven’t seen you since the pantomime days, how are you?’ – I was surprised she remembered me.”
Betty left the Royal Estate when she married Richard, a farmer, in the late 1950s and moved to a farm in Colnbrook, working as a hosiery buyer for a department store in Windsor.
She said: “We had 20 happy years there until they decided to build a motorway through the land where my husband’s family had owned the farm for 200 years.
“It was very upsetting for him so we moved to Dorset for eight years.”
When Richard died in 2002, Betty moved back to the area to be near her children Barry and Julie and grandchildren Oliver, Stuart, Ryan and Rebecca.
She brought with her a collection of photographs and the programmes from the pantomimes and her father Leslie Ashton’s medals including the Royal Victoria Cross.
Her personal photographs include photos of the royals outside the church where she was married and her children were christened.
She said: “They used to greet us outside of church but Prince Philip used to tease Margaret when they came out.
“He would get fed up and tap her on the shoulder, leaving the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth to greet us alone.”
Betty’s keepsakes include 35 books about the Queen and a handwritten letter from Prince Charles thanking her for his 21st birthday present, which was a music system.
She said: “I loved watching the jubilee celebrations on the television.”
For her birthday in May, Betty revisited the Royal Estate in Windsor and was moved to find there was still a plaque with her family name on the side of the home where she grew up.