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Intimate ”game of Hearts” letters by the Queen Mother to go on sale

A collection of letters penned by a young Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon- later to become known as the Queen Mother- to a wounded WWI soldier is set to go under the hammer.

The six letters, which date between 1916-1919, offer an insight into the intimate friendship between the teenage and Private James Harding; one of many soldiers sent to recuperate at Elizabeth’s family home, Glamis Castle in Angus. The castle was turned into a makeshift hospital following the outbreak of the war in 1914.

The correspondence began after the pair met at Galmis, where a 16-year-old Elizabeth used to attend to the injured and help them write letters to their families. The first letter was signed on 29 November 1916. It includes a photograph of herself and recalls a card game of Hearts with Harding and his friend Private Nix. She complains that the two soldiers tricked her into holding the Queen of Spades and receiving 13 penalty points.

“The games of ‘Hearts’ were great fun.’’ She wrote. I enjoyed them very much, even tho’ I was treated badly by you and Nix!”

A month later, on 22 December, a letter featured a poem she composed about the same game. ‘’ I sometimes go into the Ward/ And play a game or two;/ And if I get the Queen of Spades,/ T’is only due to you – /Private Harding./

The poem goes on to warn that ‘’If again I get the Queen/ (I’m sure there is a plot)/ There will be most awful trouble/ and a “telling off” will be the lot/ of Private Harding.”

In the third letter, Lady Elizabeth suggests that the two meet for a few minutes at a railway station in Edinburgh, where she was set to stay with her sister Rose.

“I am going to stay with my sister near Musselburgh next Tuesday,’’ she wrote on 2 October 1918. ‘’And shall be arriving at Waverley Station at 4.49.

I don’t know if you are doing work of any kind yet, but if you are not, I should be so pleased to see you for a few minutes if you could come.

It would be rather nice if I brought a pack of cards an [sic] we could play ‘Hearts’ on the platform!”

The forth letter also arranges for a meeting with the soldier, while the fifth one, written in September 1919, expresses concerns over a more serious topic- Harding’s struggle to find a job.

‘’It seems to be very difficult now. I wonder what sort of a job you want? I might by chance heard of one that you’d like, though you’d probably want to be in Edinburgh. I do hope something will turn up.’’

The final message was a reply to the news that Harding had finally found a job.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to hear the good news.’’ Elizabeth Lyon wrote on 11 December 1919. ‘’It is too splendid, after so long, and I am only so sorry that I was so useless and couldn’t help you more. But I will certainly let you know at once if I hear of anything very tempting.

Could you please write and tell me what your previous jobs were, as people always want to know. I do hope that you will get on well in your new job”

Although the letters reveal an affectionate side of Lady Elizabeth, there is nothing to suggest that their relationship developed beyond friendship. Four years later, in 1923, Elizabeth married the Duke of York, Albert, who ascended to the throne as King George VI in 1936.

The Queen Mother was a popular member of the royal family. She maintained engagements with the public and was a patron of more than 300 organisations. She died in 2002, aged 101.

The series of autograph letters is expected to fetch between £5000 and £7000 when put up for sale at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctioneers on 11 August.

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