The Daily Telegraph

‘Isle of happy memories’ pays respects to its former princess

- By Nick Squires in Valletta

SHE had not lived there for more than 70 years, but a crumbling stone villa in Malta has become the focal point for an island with long-standing links to the Crown as it grieves the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Wreaths were attached to the front door of Villa Guardamang­ia in the capital, Valletta, above a black and white photograph of the then Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip.

They lived in the imposing 18th-century property for several months between 1949 and 1951, when the prince was a Royal Navy officer serving with the Mediterran­ean Fleet.

It was the only place outside the UK that the late Queen ever called home and she always remembered Malta fondly as her “isle of happy memories”.

A stream of locals and British tourists filtered to Villa Guardamang­ia to pay their respects. A 10-year-old girl left a drawing of a corgi with the message “Rest in peace Your Majesty” and a bunch of white lilies was placed outside the villa by the British High Commission.

“She set such an example to us all,” said Rachel Jordan-wolf, the executive director of a charity, who quietly wept as she sat outside the entrance to the former royal home. “She never complained, she never said ‘I need a day off ’, she just gave of herself constantly.”

“People here love her. Many of us still feel close to England,” said Mario Portelli, 70, a taxi driver.

Princess Elizabeth launched herself into cocktail parties and picnics while her husband served on the Royal Navy ships HMS Chequers and HMS Magpie.

“She was very happy here. It was the first and the last time that she could live as close to a normal life as possible,” said Kenneth Gambin, chief operating officer for Heritage Malta, the government agency that is leading the €10 million (£8.7million) restoratio­n of the property to turn it into a museum. A petition has been launched for a public monument honouring the late Queen.

A full gun salute will be fired when Queen Elizabeth is laid to rest at her state funeral in Westminste­r Abbey.

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