The Queen Mother’s 14th birthday also marked the day The Great War broke out, in which tragedy struck the nation, and she lost one of her brothers.
Although The Queen Mother was young, she stepped up and ensured to lend a hand at her childhood home during the First World War.
She even did her part in fighting a fire that took over the castle.
Now, on the 100th anniversary of her brother, Fergus Bowes-Lyon’s death, the Castle of Mey, which is the Caithness home of The Queen Mother, will host an exhibition highlighting the sacrifices he made.
For the first time in public, photographs will be displayed of Fergus with his younger sister and brother David. A letter will also be included, written by Fergus on the same French battlefield that four months later claimed his life.
A captain with the 8th Battalion, Black Watch, he is also pictured with his dog sitting on his lap. The pieces on display in the exhibition were hand selected by his grandson, Jamie Joicey-Cecil, from the family archives at Glamis in Angus.
In September 1915, the Battle of Loos took Fergus’ life. During an attack on the German line led by Fergus, a shell blast blew his leg off. After being caught by his sergeant, bullets hit him in the shoulder and chest. He died there on the field.
He is buried in a quarry at Vermelles. Although the quarry was adopted as a war cemetery, the details of the location of his grave were lost, and so he is listed among the names of the missing on the Loos Memorial.
His brothers, John and Lord Glamis, also served on the Black List.
Curator Christine Shearer said: “The Queen Mother certainly knew the pain of the First World War.”
“Fergus’s death hit the family hard. They were a close-knit family and Fergus’s death was particularly felt by his mother, Lady Strathmore. The war robbed them, like so many families, of a loved one. Lady Elizabeth was 15 when Fergus was killed.”
The Castle of Mey was built by George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, for his second son William Sinclair. William was murdered by his older brother, John, in 1573 for discovering a plot to kill their father. John was in turn killed, so the castle went to the youngest brother, George Sinclair, who founded the family of the Sinclairs of Mey. He changed the castle’s name to Barrogill Castle.
The castle was bought by The Queen Mother in 1952 after the death of her husband King George VI. Falling in love with its isolated location, she restored the run down building, returning it to the Castle of Mey.
The castle was frequently used, usually in August and October, right until her death in March 2002.
The Queen Mother handed the property to the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust in July 1996, which in turn opened it to the public.
Every year since 2007, the Castle and Gardens of Mey have held the highest award of a 5 Star quality assurance from Visit Scotland.
The Fergus Bowes-Lyon photo exhibition will open on 13th May in the chauffeur’s cottage at the Castle of Mey.
Photo Credit: bazzarrgh via Flickr