On May 8 1945, the day the Second World War ended, London threw the party to end all parties. The pubs ran out of beer and the Royal Parks filled with condoms. And unnoticed, into the crowd slipped two teenage girls: Princesses Elizabeth, 19, and Margaret, 14. What did they get up to? Gambling in Soho and partying in a ‘knocking shop’, according to this strictly fictional and very fluffy comedy.
Canadian actress Sarah Gadon plays the awfully serious future queen Lilibet (as Elizabeth was known to her family), who leaves the palace in her army uniform, while good time girl Margaret (Bel Powley, hilarious) is dressed to the nines in fur and pearls. A stuffy party has been arranged for the princesses at the Ritz. But Margaret makes a break from the crusty toffs and runs off with a cad. Sensible Elizabeth spends the night looking for her sister with the help of a cockney squaddie.
When it’s playing for laughs, ‘A Royal Night Out’ is harmless good fun. It’s all very fond, even the scenes showing how out of touch the princesses are: the butler advises Margaret to take off her tiara if she doesn’t want to be recognised. But the film stalls when straying into serious-drama territory. A storyline involving the squaddie’s tussle with his posho bosses feels out of place. Still, we should all start adopting toff 1940s slang immediately: ‘I’m so cheesed!’ ‘Wizard!’ ‘He’s gawn doolally!’