How Queen Elizabeth Really Celebrated V-E Day

On May 8, 1945, citizens across London flooded into the streets to celebrate the end of World War II, colloquially known as V-E Day. Among them were the princesses Margaret and Elizabeth Windsor, the latter of whom was soon to become Queen Elizabeth. Though little is known of their escapades that night, it's now been reimagined in the hands of director Julian Jerrold and adapted into the new film A Royal Night Out , out Dec. 4, starring Bel Powley as Margaret and Sarah Gadon as Elizabeth. Though the princesses' mother protests, their father King George VI permits them a night on the town — it's the last time they'll be able to leave Buckingham incognito, he reasons, because Elizabeth will soon ascend to the throne.

The women, ages 14 and 19, head out in the company of two staid young army escorts with a curfew of 1 a.m. They traverse all corners of the city, from Trafalgar Square to a then-seedy Soho, and the sweet reenvisioned history takes a romantic turn when Elizabeth is separated from Margaret. She enlists yet another young soldier named Jack (Jack Reynor) to help her track down her sister, who's last seen in the trailer sipping cheerfully from a delicate glass as her bus pulls out of the station.

The whole movie is overshadowed in part by the knowledge that Elizabeth and Jack just won't end up together. We know how this story ends; she'll marry Prince Phillip in 1947 and ascend to the throne in 1952. Though fictionalized, A Royal Night Out also attempts to find real moments in a made-up story. As Gadon told the Daily Mail, "even though the situations are fictional, we wanted to ensure that her feelings and reactions to events are believable and that she comes across as real." Elizabeth and Margaret have a life-like wonder at the world around them, revealed during their cab ride across the city in the exclusive clip below, and their chaperones come across as suitably neurotic for two young men charged with the future of their nation during the biggest party in years.

The clip below plays out just before Margaret and Elizabeth are separated. They've just left the palace, and their cab is stuck in the throngs of people crowding the streets. There's a bit of awkward tension — neither princesses nor their escorts really know how to interact with each other. The clip also demonstrates their overwhelming desire to experience normal life, even if just for a night. "We are incognito," Elizabeth urges. The invented scenario somehow finds an honest way to explore the intersection of public and private life seen through the lens of two young women that have never known them to be distinct from each other.

According to Vanity Fair, the princesses' cousin Margaret Rhodes also joined in the adventure (though she's not one of the key players in A Royal Night Out), and she has described their escapades as "wonderful bedlam." The details of what went on that night will probably be lost to history, but Gadon and Powley provide a sweet and compelling, if broadly humorous, portrait of what it might have looked like to be truly at peace for the first time in their lifetimes.

Image: Atlas Distribution Company & Ketchup Entertainment