In this week’s 10 questions and answers, we take a look at the extraordinary life of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Apologies for missing last week’s 10 questions and answers slot, we were caught up in work for new site design.
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in London on 4th August 1900 to Claude, Lord Glamis (later the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in Scotland), and his wife, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. The location of her birth remains uncertain, but reputedly she was born either in her parents’ Westminster home at Belgrave Mansions, Grosvenor Gardens, or in a horse-drawn ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Elizabeth’s early life was rather typical of any aristocratic family. When Elizabeth was 14, Britain declared war on Germany, starting what would be initially known as The Great War and later World War 1. Four of Elizabeth’s brothers were serving as officers in the Army during the war. Fergus, an officer in the Black Watch Regiment, was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Elizabeth’s home, Glamis Castle, was turned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, which Elizabeth helped to run (putting one rather in mind of Downton Abbey).
Prince Albert and Elizabeth allegedly originally met at a children’s party, later getting together. Elizabeth refused Prince Albert’s first two marriage proposals for fear of “never, never again [being able] to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to”. When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis Castle to see for herself Lady Elizabeth. She became convinced that Elizabeth was “the one girl who could make Bertie happy”, but nevertheless refused to interfere. At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert’s equerry, until he left the prince’s service for a better-paid job in the American oil business. Eventually, Elizabeth conceded and agreed to marry Albert.
When Edward VIII, Albert’s brother, announced that he would abdicate from the throne to marry his lover Wallis Simpson in 1936, as next in line to the throne, Albert would be King and Elizabeth would be his consort. Albert never wanted to be King and when he found out that he was to be King, he apparently sobbed on Queen Mary’s shoulder for a whole hour. Nevertheless, Albert stood up to his duty, unlike his brother, and according to many sources, Elizabeth was a tower of strength to Albert throughout his accession and beyond. On 11th December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated as King and Albert acceded as King George VI and Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort.
At the outbreak of WW2, Elizabeth began to take up a vital role in keeping up the spirits of the entire nation by visiting bomb damaged areas of London. She and the King were seen as figures of solidarity and strength by the British people. She explicitly refused to leave London and when Princess Elizabeth and Margaret were offered a safe haven for the duration of the war in Canada, she famously said: “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.” – When Buckingham Palace itself took several hits during the height of the bombing, Elizabeth was able to say, “I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”
Yes! During World War 2, Elizabeth took up pistol practice inside the Palace in case she had to make a ‘last stand against the enemy’. This was taken up during the early stages of what was known as ‘the Phoney war’ where it was thought the Germans may make a descent on Britain and that the best way to counter this fear was to equip and train the Queen in the use of a revolver.
That could well have been. Many sources document Hitler as having called her, “the most dangerous woman in Europe”. This referred to the fact that Elizabeth was playing an important part in rallying the nation and acting as a symbol of resistance against German forces. The Queen played a tremendous role in boosting British morale. Though when she turned up to many bomb-damaged sites initially, wearing expensive clothing, she caused quite a stir, for obvious reasons, though this soon died down as Elizabeth explained: “if the public came to see me they would wear their best clothes, so I should reciprocate in kind”.
When King George VI died on 6th February 1952, her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. She then became the Queen Mother and played an important role in supporting the new Queen and, where necessary, advising her on her new office using her own experience. Initially the Queen Mother refused to move out of Buckingham Palace to make way for the new Queen, though eventually gave way and moved to the very nearby Clarence House, which is now the residence of the Prince Of Wales.
When Elizabeth was born, she was born as ‘The Honourable Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’. When Elizabeth’s father acceded to the title of Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, she became ‘The Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’. When she married Prince Albert, she became ‘Her Royal Highness The Duchess Of York’. When Albert acceded as King she became ‘Her Majesty The Queen [Elizabeth]‘. When Albert died, she assumed the title of ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’ which she remained for the next 50 years until her death in 2002.
Queen Elizabeth lived until the age of 101 (yes, she did get her 100th birthday telegram from the Queen). On 30 March 2002, at 3:15 pm, the Queen Mother died in her sleep at the Royal Lodge Windsor with her surviving daughter Queen Elizabeth II at her bedside. She had been suffering from a cold for the last four months of her life. At the time of her death, she was the longest-lived member of the royal family in British history. This record was broken on 24 July 2003, by her last surviving sister-in-law Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, who died aged 102 on 29 October 2004.
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