The late Queen Elizabeth II was a passionate horse racing fan


  • An archive that includes photos of Queen Elizabeth II as a war mechanic will go up for auction next week
  • The archive also includes the then-princess' war department provisional driving license
  • Elizabeth's former military driving instructor insisted it could not be sold during the monarch's lifetime

Rare photographs of the late Queen Elizabeth II taken during her time as an auto mechanic during World War II are being sold by auctioneers for £2,000 ($2,280) almost two months after her death.

A private archive belonging to Major Violet Wellesley — who was then-Princess Elizabeth's driving instructor in the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women's branch of the British Army — includes seven black-and-white photos and documents detailing the royal's experiences as a wartime mechanic in 1945, U.K.'s The Times reported.

The photos showed the then-19-year-old princess in her mechanic's uniform while she was training to be a truck driver and mechanic during the Second World War. She served as a second subaltern, which is the equivalent of a second lieutenant, according to National Geographic.

Three of the photos were group shots of Elizabeth with other ATS girls she trained with during the war. Two were of the princess under the hood of an army truck, while another showed her maneuvering a military vehicle.

The archive also included the future Queen's war department provisional driving license, which had the serial number B1232. She listed her name as "H.R.H Princess Elizabeth" and indicated that she had blue eyes, was 5-foot-4 in height and had light brown hair on the official document.

There were also photos that documented the princess' father King George VI and her mother Queen Elizabeth's visit to the ATS training center at Camberley, England.

They were accompanied by an account written by Wellesley that she was asked to give to royal biographer John Wheeler-Bennett in 1959.

In the note, Wellesley praised Princess Elizabeth for her work ethic and for getting "thoroughly dirty" in the role. She also described the then-young royal as an "outstanding" driver for a beginner.

"She insisted on being treated as an ordinary ATS subaltern and of receiving no favors whatsoever," Wellesley wrote, according to the Times. "I remember what a lot of enjoyment she got out of being behind the scenes for a change when the King and Queen inspected our training center."

Another document in the archive was a thank-you letter sent to Wellesley from Buckingham Palace, expressing gratitude for sending Princess Elizabeth birthday wishes on her 23rd birthday in 1949.

Before Wellesley's death in 1971, she had instructed that the archive could not be sold off until Queen Elizabeth II had passed away as she "didn't want to cause offense."

Two months after the Queen died on Sept. 8, the photos and documents were consigned for auction to Reeman Dansie in Colchester, Essex, by the daughter of Wellesley's close companion who kept the archive.

"I'm sure the photos of the visit to Camberley by the King and Queen were taken by an official royal photographer but many of the others were taken by people in the ATS and are rare," James Grinter, of Reeman Dansie, told the outlet.

"Miss Wellesley's account of the Queen's service in the ATS is quite charming and shows how hard she worked at it," he continued, before adding that the upcoming sale will be the first royal sale they've had since the Queen died.

The archive, along with other royal letters and antiques, will be up for bidding on Nov. 8. The items may be viewed or bought at their store in Severalls Business Park in Highwoods, Colchester, or through live online bidding at Reeman Dansie's website or The Saleroom.

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The young queen posed for an undated portrait around 1952. AFP/Getty Images