Windsor Series: Queen Mother

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Queen Mother

Born: 4th August 1900, birth location not known but possibly Westminster or Hertfordshire

Daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecelia Cavendish-Bentinck

Married: Prince Albert (later George VI) April 1923

Died: 30th March 2002, Royal Lodge at Windsor

Queen Elizabeth, more commonly known as the Queen Mother was the 9th of 10 children born into an aristocratic family in Scotland. Her background meant she socialised in royal circles however she would never have expected to one day be Queen Consort and for the majority of her life, Mother to the Sovereign. Her reluctance to join the royal family even as the wife of the King’s second son, was quickly eclipsed by her lasting popularity. As Queen Consort she was patron to 350 charities and organisations, which brought awareness to their various causes. She continued her support of them after her husband’s premature death at the age of 56, which meant that by Elizabeth’s own death in 2002 at the age of 101, she had spent more than half her life as a widow.

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Elizabeth was educated by a governess at home and then sent to school in London where she did well academically. On her 14th birthday war was declared with Germany and her family home of Glamis Castle was converted to a military hospital. Although too young to be a trained nurse, Elizabeth was a valuable addition to the wounded soldiers care. One soldier commented that she should be ‘hung, drawn and quartered’, which he meant for her to be hung in diamonds, drawn in a carriage and quartered in the best home in the land. How correct was he! Despite the humour and war support at home, their was tragedy for the Bowes-Lyon family. Her brother Fergus died at the Battle of Loos in France in 1915. His body was never recovered.

 

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At the end of the War Elizabeth just 18 met her future husband Bertie. They had known of each other as children, and by 1918 Elizabeth was considered a great beauty. Bertie proposed to her twice over the course of two years, each time she refused. She was reluctant for her life to be dictated by royal protocol, however she relented in 1923 and they were married 4 months later. Bertie had to receive permission from his father for the two to wed as she was not royalty and therefore a commoner. This was not normally the case for royalty, as they were encouraged to marry fellow royals. George V was fond of Elizabeth and accepted the match. On their wedding day at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth laid her bouquet of flowers on the grave of the Unknown Warrior. She did this as sign of respect to her brother Fergus, and the many men that died during the war. This act has become a tradition with all British royal brides, sending their bouquet to be placed on the grave the day after their weddings.63616

The newly wed couple were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of York and carried out royal appointments together. They toured parts of the British Empire including Australia and New Zealand where the Duchess was very popular. By 1930 they had two daughters and were living a comfortable life in Piccadilly, London. Life drastically changed for the family in 1936 with the death of George V and subsequent abdication of Edward VIII. Bertie and Elizabeth ascended the throne in troubled time. War was brewing in Europe and the family had to quickly adapt to a life of duty and support for the nation. Elizabeth’s role as Queen Consort came naturally to her, with the ability to talk with people from all walks of life. This was beneficial during the Blitz as she and the King visited the bombed parts of the country and shared their stoicism and determination.

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The King’s death was sudden, despite his ill health the royal family had been given vague information regarding his progress. Elizabeth was only 51 and deeply mourned her husband. Her new title became Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and she and Princess Margaret had to move from Buckingham Palace into Clarence House. The adjustment to widowhood was a challenge, however she was well received everywhere she went. In 1972 she made a trip to Hinton Ampner House in Hampshire, which happened to fall on the day of the derby. Just like her daughter, she was very keen on horse racing and wanted to watch the race, to find that Lord Sherborn did not have a television. She was told that the servants had one, and on hearing this happily watched the race in the servants hall with 20 members of the house staff.

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Elizabeth died in her sleep at the age of 101. On her death she was the longest-lived member of the royal family. Her legacy remains in her longevity which provided much stability and reassurance to the public. She is buried alongside her husband and youngest daughter Margaret in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

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