Sixty-nine years ago, in the midst of the Second World War, Britain's Elizabeth the Queen Mother was in Buckingham Palace delicately attempting to remove an eyelash from husband King George VI's eye when she heard the whistle from a falling bomb.
"It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle," she wrote in a letter to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary.
Her reaction to the German bombing of Buckingham Palace in 1940 is only one of a myriad of never-before-seen, intimate moments that made up the queen's 102-year life as revealed for the first time in her official biography titled "The Queen Mother," released earlier this month.
Written by William Shawcross, the biography is more than 1,000 pages long and spans the entirety of the 20th century, following Elizabeth through her teenage years during the World War I, and through to her death in 2002.
With unprecedented access to her letters, some of which had not been taken out of their envelopes in more than 50 years, Shawcross documents Elizabeth's private thoughts on the controversial abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, her impressions of other royals and life as royalty in England.
After the bombing of Buckingham Palace in the World War II, Elizabeth went into town to "see people whose houses had been completely destroyed," Shawcross said.
"She did that all through the war," he said. "She mingled with ordinary people and kept the moral of the country up."
The letters show Elizabeth was distressed when her brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, thrusting her into power.
"She never wanted her husband to become king," Shawcross said. "He never wanted to be king. My subject, Elizabeth, had to become queen and although she didn't want to, she was a wonderful queen. ... They both rose to the occasion."
An excerpt of the book will appear in the October issue of Vogue magazine.