Yet in all but one respect—a childhood shadowed by a war which has cut off the opportunity of foreign travel at an age when its educational value would be great—the advantage is with the Princess of today. First and foremost, she is far more fortunate in her parentage and early surroundings. The Duke of Kent, Princess Victoria's father, had his qualities, but all his associations were German, and his wholly German wife was a well-meaning but limited woman. The secluded household at Kensington, then well outside London, was permeated by the influence of the German Fraulein Lehzen, the German Prince Leopold (the Duchess of Kent's brother), and the half-German Baron Stockmarnot—not the happiest atmosphere for the nurture of a Queen.
Princess Elizabeth was born in a house in a London street, and spent most of the first ten years of her life in a house in another London street, Piccadilly, with cars and buses and taxis—all that makes up the swift and shifting life of London speeding ceaselessly past its windows day and night. It was the comfort of an English home like a thousand others, rather than the luxury, or imagined luxury, of a palace. There the Princess was taught to read by her mother. Till she was seven her education was confined to reading and writing (Princess Victoria was tutored in the latter by the writing-master of Westminster School), French, the piano, and dancing. Then Miss Crawford, Scottish, an Edinburgh graduate, well-traveled, a lover of fresh air and exercise, was brought south to institute a very different tutelage from that exercised over the Princess of the 1820's by Fraulein Lehzen.
But King George's two daughters—for Princess Elizabeth is happily not, like Princess Victoria, an only child—are well-provided also with teachers of special subjects, such as French, German, and music. Princess Elizabeth today reads history with the Vice-Provost of Eton, on the basis of such works as Trevelyan's History of England, which could not be improved on, and Muzzey's History of the United States (how many English girls of seventeen read any American history at all?), together with European history in outline. In Biblical history Canon Crawley, of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, has been her guide. A natural linguist, she speaks French and German fluently and with an excellent accent. She has read some Moliere, some Corneille, some Daudet, and she knows many of "Les Cent Meilleurs Poemes Francais" by heart.
The Princess's explorations in the field of English literature are of greater interest and perhaps of greater significance. Time for reading at large is limited, for the formal educational regimen is treated seriously. But in or out of "school hours" she has read most of Shakespeare; The Canterbury Tales; a good deal of Coleridge, Keats, Browning, and Tennyson; some of Scott, Dickens, Jane Austen, Trollope, and Robert Louis Stevenson; while in lighter moments she turns to Conan Doyle (I hope The White Company as well as Sherlock Holmes), John Buchan (I hope Montrose as well as Greenmantle), and, before he brought dishonor on his name, P. G. Wodehouse (whose hold was as potent over a Prime Minister of seventy as over a Princess not seventeen).