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News > Foundation Archive News > Princethorpe's Connection To Treetops

Princethorpe's Connection To Treetops

Our Foundation Archivist explores Princethorpe's connection to one of the most historic events of the 20th Century, 'She went up as a princess and came down as a Queen'.

In the Easter Term of 1952, St. Mary’s Priory received some very shocking and sad news. Just two days later, the girls of St. Mary’s Priory listened to the proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II and they were thrilled to discover that they had their very own link to this momentous occasion.

Many miles away from Princethorpe, Princess Elizabeth was staying at the Treetops Hotel in the foothills of Mount Kenya, when the news that her father, King George VI, had died and that she was to become Queen was broken to her by Prince Philip. According to Lady Pamela, also in Kenya working as a lady-in-waiting, the Queen showed her customary humility, apologising to everyone that they would now need to return home. She was in awe of the fact that the Queen was still thinking of others in this moment of shock and grief.

Lady Betty Walker (née Feilding) was hosting Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their visit to Kenya in 1952, when Princess Elizabeth heard the news. It is not hard to imagine that our very own Betty Feilding overheard these momentous words, saw these exchanges, shared her sadness and sympathy with the Queen and was unwittingly a part of one of the greatest moments in 20th Century history; that she saw Princess Elizabeth on the very day that she became Queen. The young Betty Feilding, who spent her school years at St. Mary’s Priory could never have imagined what was to lay before her.

Born in Monks Kirkby at the family home of Newnham Paddox in 1899, we know that Betty was a boarder at SMP, along with her sisters Clare and Victoria, in 1911.

Betty appears to participate wholeheartedly in school life, making the most of the opportunities presented to her; achieving musical and academic success. In one award ceremony she was given the subject prize for not one but three subjects – Religious Instruction, English Studies and Arithmetic. Betty seems to have been a very talented young woman.

Further investigations in the archives have shown that Betty took part in a school play, which was ‘an early Roman play’ called ‘St. Filumena’ and apparently it was an ‘unqualified success.

Discovering Betty’s story and the pleasure she clearly felt as a member of the Princethorpe Community has come at an extremely timely moment, as we have mourned and now celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Through Betty, we are able to recognise the great wealth of history that is within our school and we have the wonderful archives that were able to verify the story we learnt at our VSOP event on the Saturday 17 September!

Shortly after her time at Treetops, Queen Elizabeth II said that her ‘whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to (our) Service’ and, seventy years later, we can certainly agree that it has.

*Peeps of Princethorpe was the annual school magazine of St. Mary’s priory and, with only a few exceptions, we have copies from 1902 to 1964 with a special 1990 Reunion edition. They contain a wealth of information and are a wonderful source to gain an insight into life at St. Mary’s Priory

[1] Peeps of Princethorpe, 1952, p. 17

[2] The India Hicks Podcast, 5. A Royal Love Story, a Commonwealth Tour and a Princess to become Queen, <> [accessed 28th September 2022]

[3] Ibid.

[4] Census of England and Wales, 1911, RG 14, The National Archives

[5] Peeps of Princethorpe, 1913, p. 44

[6] Peeps of Princethorpe, 1913, p. 43

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