You and Queen Elizabeth II may have something in common—if you were a Girl Scout, that is.
The Girl Guides, as they are called in the UK, started in England in 1909, when, according to The Guardian, a group of determined young girls “stormed into a Scout rally in 1909, demanding that the group’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell, start a sister organization.” Baden-Powell assigned the task to his younger sister, Agnes, and in 1910, the Girl Guide Association was formed, adding a junior scouting section, known originally as the Rosebuds and later the Brownies, in 1914. Inspired by her friends’ efforts, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, just two years later.
The royal family were early fans of the group, especially Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who is better known as the Queen Mother, and her sister Mary, who became President of the Girl Guide Association in 1920.
Mary and Elizabeth visited Girl Guides groups across London and when Elizabeth had two daughters, it made sense to sign them up. After all, Bowes-Lyon wanted her daughters to have lives that were as normal as possible for young princesses. So in 1937, Princess Mary, their aunt, signed up the 11-year old Princess Elizabeth as a Girl Guide and her younger sister, Margaret, was signed up as a Brownie, according to British newspaper, The Telegraph. Their mother joined the Guides, too, becoming Patron of the Girl Guides.
To help them earn their merit badges, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company was formed. The troop was made up of the children of royal household members and Buckingham Palace employees who also wanted to be Girl Guides and Brownies. According to Historyextra.com, they transformed a summerhouse on the palace garden into the Guides’ headquarters. There the princesses and their fellow troop members learned to cook on campfires, practiced pitching tents, and earned merit badges like any other Girl Scout. The future Queen of England even practiced her bandaging skills on her younger sister.
When World War II broke out, while the Girl Guides were hard at work in the war effort, the princesses’ troop was disbanded, reforming at Windsor Castle in 1942. The 1st Buckingham Palace Company was reformed in 1959 so Princess Anne could join a Girl Guide troop as a Brownie and continued at least through 1965.
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The Girl Guides made a big impact on Elizabeth and like many other girls in other scout troops, she made lifelong friends. When she married in 1947, two of her bridesmaids were former Guides.
In 1946, the Queen’s Guide Award was established and, according to the BBC, is still the highest award a Guide can receive. In 1952 Queen Elizabeth and her mother became joint patrons of the Girl Guides, a few years later Princess Margaret graduated, who started as a Brownie, was named President of the Girl Guides, just like her aunt before her. The royal tradition is continuing. In 2003, Prince Edward 's wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, became President of the re-named scouting group, Girlguiding UK, and Kate Middleton, who was a Brownie as a child, serves as a scout leader.