Figure 1.--This formal portrait of Elizabeth was painted when she was 8 years old. It is a lovely image, but not capture her playfulness. The artist was Mabel Hankey.
The Queen Mother Elizabeth is noted for both a sense of fun and of duty. The future George VI married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) in 1923 at Westminster Abbey. At the time no one expected him to be king and Elizabeth had no inlking she would become queen. The relationship between the Queen Mother and and her husband has not been well studied. Actually historians know very little about her influence on her husband. She became perhaps the best loved peson on the British Isles and was still going strong at age 100! She died in 2002 at the venerable age of 101. Elizabeth had a bumpy start in that she was born in an ambulance. The Queen Mother was born Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on August, 4 1900, the ninth of 10 children. She had a wonderful childhood. She grew up on the family estate in Scotland and enjoyed an open and active childhood. She was not particularly well educated and saw little need for formal education--especially for girls. Being born an aristocrat rather than a royal she was free from the constraints of royal children. Lady Elizabeth was, however, no stranger to royalty and after a long courtship married Prince Bertie. Their children were Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Windsor (Princess Margaret).Queen Elizabeth was totally at ease in virtually any company. She is unselfconcious and always flashing a ready smile. She was dispairaged as dowdy by her sister-in-law the Duchess of Windsor. She was reportedly one of the most opposed to the Duchesses' acceptance in England. She was perhaps most admired for remaining in London wih her children and husband during the World War II Blitz. She has tremendous charm. She remained by far the most admired British royal, lovingly referred to as the Queen Mum. Their children were Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Windsor (Princess Margaret).
The Queen Mother was born Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. on August, 4 1900. Elizabeth had a bumpy start in that she was born in an ambulance.
Elizabeth's parents were Lord and Lady Glamis, who became the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
Elizabeth was the 9th of 10 children. One might suspect that a little girl might be rather lost in a family of five older brothers and three older sisters, but the young Lady Elizabeth pursued life with a passdion. Elizabeth was especially close to her little brother David, about 2 years younger. the two developed a well-deserved reputation for playing pranks. Unexpecting often high-class guests dressed in their best clothes were sometimes doused with a bucket filled with icy water that the two michievious childen would tip over and send cascading down a 90ft tower above the entrance to the castle. I'm not sure how many times the two were allowed to get away with that little prank. Elizabeth was also close to an older sister--Mary Frances, known as May. As an adult May lived in Carberry Tower, with her husband, Lord Elphinstone. Canberry Tower is near Musselburgh outsoide of Edinburgh. Elizabeth would often visit when her husband had official duties in Edinburgh.
She had a wonderful childhood. She grew up on the family estate in Scotland, Glamis Castle located 10 miles north of Dundee. Throughout her long life was fiercely proud of these Scottish roots. She enjoyed an open and active childhood. She was an actively and lively child. She had two nicknames with the family, "The Imp" and "Merry Mischief". Being born an aristocrat rather than a royal she was free from the constraints of royal children. Glamis Castle itself was a consrtant delight for a young child. complete with a watten of secret passages and a walled up room complete with ghosts. Elizabeth developed an interest in fishing and shooting, which were to be passions throughout her life. It is said that her father failed to register her birth because he was too busy shooting grouse--for which he was fined 10 shillings. Elizabeth also developed a love of horses and dogs which she passed on to her daughter Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was not particularly well educated and saw little need for formal education--especially for girls.
Elizabeth's teen years were shadowed by World War I. The ancesteral home, Glamis Castle, was made into a Red Cross hospital for wounded soldiers. Elizabeth was to young to qualify to be a nurse. She would put on entertainmnts for the men. Many recovering soldiers were touced by Elizabeth's caring nature. She would run errands help the woinded write letters hime. Many a wounded soldier had kind words about the Lady Elizabeth. Her older brother Fergus was killed at the Battle of Loos at the age of 26. Elizabeth took over much of the responsibility of running Glamis while her mother was over come with grief.
Lady Elizabeth was, however, no stranger to royalty. She met King George's second son--known in the family as Bertie when he visited Glamis. (Another source suggests that that the two mdet at a ball in Grovernors Square in 1920. Elizabeth was a lively young lady and very popular with eligible bachelors of the day. A long courtship followed. he Prince said he fell in loce at the time. It took a while to cionvince Ladt Elizabeth. She was at first heitant and reportedly turned down Bertie's first proposal in 1921. The future George VI peristed and reportedly married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) in 1923 at Westminster Abbey with great pagentry. They spent part of their honeymoon at Glamis. The relationship between Elizabeth and and her husband has not been well studied. Actually historians know very little about her influence on her husband. We do know that she proved of great support to her reserved husband . She helped coach him in praticing his speeches, made a terrible ordeal because of his serious stammer.
Bertie and David, the family name for the Prince of Wales, had always been close as boys. They were close to each other in age and raised together. Thiswas in part because Berie generrally dreferred to David who was older and the heir presumtive. David was more adept socially. Bertie was rather shy, although a better sportsman than Bertie. This relationship began to change after Berte despite problenms at first, did quite well as a Naval Cadet and gained confidence. The change in their relationship was most noticeable after World War I. Bertie as a young man was less willing to be as differnntial to David. It was at this time that a cousin, the future Lord Mountbatten, was chosen to accompany the Prince of Wales on a trip to the overseas Dominions. Bertie was quierly left behind. Bertie's mairrage put increasing pressure on his older brother to marry, a subject which was raised by their father with the Prince of Wales. David, the family name for Bertie's older brother was a frequent visitor until he met Mrs. Simpson. Princess Elizabth remembers her charming Uncle David and how he suddenly stopped visiting. She was dispairaged as dowdy by her sister-in-law the Duchess of Windsor. She was reportedly one of the most opposed to the Duchesses' acceptance in England.
At the time of their mairrage, no one expected Bertie would ever be king and Elizabeth had no inlking she would become queen. Bertie and Elizabeth were leading a quiet life as a naval officer with two daughters when the abdication crisis enveloped them. After Edward VIII abdicated, Elizabth's official title became the Queen Consort and after her husband's ceath, the Queen Mother. King George and Elizabeth set out to restore the magesty of the British monarchy after the jarring abdication crisis.
After Bertie became King in 1937, the couple moved to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, built for Queen Victoria by Prince albert. Itis located on the banks of Sotland's beautiful Dee River Dee. Balmoral had become the privately owned residence of the incumbent monarch. (King George had to buy it from his brother.) Queen Elizabeth spent hours salmon fishing at Balmoral. On one occasion, the staff becamne very woried when the Queen failed to return as the sun was setting . A search party was dispatched which found her lugging a 20lb salmon up a bank.
Figure 2.--Here the Royal couple is seen perhaps jut before World War II in 1938 or 39 with their two children, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Note how the two were dressed alike. Also note the saddle shoes.
Their children were Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Windsor (Princess Margaret). The young princesses had governesses and turors. The Queen Mother took a great personal interest in the children--more so that previous royal mothers. She personally schooled her two daughters in social skills such as dancing and drawing.
Queen Elizabeth was born in London on April 21, 1926, She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York. Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret Rose, unlike many English royals, grew up in a tight-knit and loving family. No one at the time thought her father would be king and she queen. She and her sister in fact led a rather quiet life until her uncle Edward VIII surprised the world by abdicating in 1936. Suddenly Princess Elizabeth became first in line of succession to follow her father. Princess Elizabeth and Margaret Rose were educated at home and never attended schools. Elizabeth was a very dutiful and seious girl and extremely protective of her younger sister. The two were often dressed alike. The princesses stayed with their parents in London during the Blitz. Elizabeth was by the War a teenager and as it dragged on served as a much publicized ambulance driver--learning to repair it as well. Shortly after her 18th birthday, she was appointed Counsellor of State during the King's absence and, for the first time, exercised Crown functions of the Crown.
Princess Margaret, was born at Glamis and as a result was the first Royal baby born so close to the succession in Scotland for more than 300 years. She was often referred to as Margaret Rose. There was considerable controversy about her marriage. As a young woman, Princess Margaret in the 1950s moved with the jet set and became rather unpopular with the Btritish public. Her sister refused to let he marry probably the love of her life because he had been divoreced. She later in 1960 married Anthony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, created First Earl of Snowdon 1st. There was a magnificent ceremony in Westminster Abbey. They divorced in 1979, but had two children: David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, Vicount Linley, (1961- ) and Lady Sarah Frances Elizabeth Armstrong-Jones (1964- ). After her divorce, Princess Margaret gave increased attention to her charities and public duties and gradually became much more accepted by the British public.
The Queen mother's grand children were Prince Charles (1948- ), Princess Anne, Prince Andrew (1960- ), and Prince Edward (1964- ). Her great-grandchildren were Prince William (1982- )and Prince Harry (1984- ).
Queen Elizabeth bonded with the Brirish people. This was in part because of World War II, but it was her personality that appealed to her subjects of all social classes. The Queen was totally at ease in virtually any company. She was unselfconcious and always flashing a ready smile. She started out at a disadvantahe with her husband replaced the popular Edward VIII after he abdicated, but it did not take long for the public to respond to her. The new Queen was the opposite of her husband. She was as outgoing as he was shy. She enjoyed life and was a "real" person that the public could identify with. She loved to go to the race track and spent lavishly on clothes and tippled a bit. She had a human touch, both in public and i private, that she failed to impart to her oldest daughter. She was described by Time Magazine as "merry and maternal". Her ability to relate to the British people caused the staid London Times to assess her as probably the most popular royal personage of all time--quite an accolade.
Just before World War II, King George and Queen Elizabeth visited America and Canada to do their best to shore up relations for the crisis to come. American public opinion was decidedly with the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson, but the King and Queen charmed the public. They stayed in the White House and spoke atlength with President Roosevelt and the First Lady. King George and Queen Elizabeth were an inspiration to the British people after War broke out. This was in sharp contrast to the Duke of Windsor's rather questionable behavior. Queen Elizabeth was perhaps most admired for remaining in London at her husband's side with their children during the World War II German Blitz. The King was advised to evacuate his family, especially the two princesses. The Queen reportedly scoffed at the idea and is best known for her explanation as to why they did not. She explained that her girls would not leave without her and she would nopt leave wothout the king, adding with emophasis and "the king will never leave". She and her husband would visit bombed out areas of London talking with compassion to those who had lost family members and their homes. As she picked her way through the rubble, she was always emaculately dresses. The King and Queen were particularly concerned with the heavily bombed East End--an industrial area with much working-class housing. She is reported to have said after Buckibngham Palace had been hit in the bombing, "Now I feel I can look look the East End in the face." She also was a frequest visitor to hospitals. Her heart also went out to the French people after the German occupation in 1940. She delivered radio broadcasts in fluent French to the women of Britain's defeated ally. Prime Minister Churchill came to consider both the King and Queen as key allies, and eventually friends, in the fight against the NAZIs. Through the War, the Queen and King made extensive public appearances throughout Britain to help maintain morale on the Home Front.
Although Britain had won the War, the county was devetate and bankrupt. Rationing continued o years after the War. A new Labour Givernment set out to remake the country. There were persobal challenges as well. King George became ill in 1947 and required considerable care as his health slowly ebbed.
King George VI died of lung cancer in 1952. He was a cahin smoker. Elizabeth always blamed his brother, the Duke of Windsor, for forcing the resonsibilities of kingship for which he was illprepared on him, reslting in his eraly death. Balmoral was turned over to her daughter now Queen Elizabeth II and her growing family. Elizabeth, now known as the Queen Mother retained a home, Birkhall, on the edge of the estate where she and Berties had lived a few years in the 1930s before becoming king and queen. It was at Birkhall that she came to terms with her grief over the loss of her husband. She emersed herself with restoration work. She was remembered for visiting with the gamekeepers' wives for an uncerimonious cup of tea. She took a special interest with Mey Castle in Caithness. She bought the castle shortly after King George's death. At the time it was in a derelict condition. The roof needed replaced. Viscount Thurso, Lord Lieutenant of Caithness, explained that the Queen felt that Mey Castle "... needed somebody to love and look after it". The Queen Mother first saw the castle, known as Barrogill Castle, while staying with friends. Restoration took 3 years. The Queen Mother gave the castle back its ancient name and became her principal and most intimate home.
She loved to organize ceilidhs at Caithness. Each year she would visit a local artist's exhibition. She would invariably make a purchase from the local antique shop. The Members of the Royal Family would always visit her on their annual cruiseaboard the Royal Yacht Britannia which would dock nearby at Caithness.
Embarassed by the abdication crisis, she was a stoing voice with the Royal Family for propriety and morality. She insisted on the higest standards in raising her two daughters. Notably Princess Margaret was not allowed to marry a divorced commoner with whom she fell in love. The scandals within the royal family which emrerged in the 1980s wer a great disppointment to her and resuted in persinal rebukes to both Prince Charles nd Princess Dianne.
Of all the royal children, the Queen Mother was probably cloest to Prince Charles than the other royal cildren and he to her. Queen Elizabeth gave less attention to her son that her mother had given to her. In part this was due to her responsibilities as the ruling soveign, but perhaps her interest lay more with royal than maternal duties. Some say that Charles looked on his grandmother as the mother he never had and she looked on him as the son which she never had. She and Charles repotedly loved to gi fishing together while in Scotland.
The Queen Mother had tremendous charm which only seem to grow in her later years. She remained by far the most admired British royal, lovingly referred to as the Queen Mum. Queen Elizabeth became perhaps the best loved peson on the British Isles and was still going strong at age 100! David Frost remembers seing her shoing up at a roal function still wearing high heels--determined to dress appropriately no matter what her age. The Queen mother died in 2002 at the venerable age of 101. After a long and eventful life, the Queen Mum will perhaps be lovingly remembered as the sprightly sole who seemed to be an entire nation's cherished grandmother.
Bradford, Sarah. The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952 (New York: St. Marin's Press, 1989), 506p.
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