She may have spent most of her life in London, but Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother actually grew up in Scotland, where she spent many a happy day at her childhood home, Glamis Castle.
Glamis Castle has belonged to the Lyon family since the 14th century, when Sir John Lyon married Joanna, the
daughter of the Scottish King, Robert II. After being created Baron of Glamis in the 15th century, Lord Glamis was granted the titles of Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, ones which the owners of Glamis use to this day.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, as The Queen Mother was known before her marriage, was the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and Countess. Although she was born in London, she spent most of her childhood in Glamis Castle. When the First World War started in 1914, Glamis was transformed into a convalescent home for soldiers, where young Elizabeth looked after the wounded and played the piano to entertain the troops.
After her marriage to the Duke of York, the new couple spent their honeymoon in Glamis. Their second daughter, Princess Margaret, was also born in the Scottish Castle. Following the death of her husband, King George VI, The Queen Mother visited Glamis Castle annually, and continued to do so until her own death in 2002.
Now, The Queen Mother’s memory lives on, through a series of portraits on display at her childhood home. This portrait exhibition at is made up of more than 60 photographs, taken by Alex Coupar, that chart The Queen Mother’s time in Scotland during the last four decades of her life.
Alex Coupar, who is currently 82 years old, took the first picture of The Queen Mother in 1952, shortly after the death of her husband. “The first time I was asked to photograph her in 1952 was quite by chance,” he recounted. “I had left school and joined the newspaper. I remember it well because the chief photographer was off and I had been asked to step in. The job was to photograph the Queen Mother at the Lord Roberts Workshop, which provided employment for disabled ex-servicemen, but I never expected I’d be the person entrusted to do the job; I was just 20 years old.”
“The first time was rather daunting. The Queen Mother was dressed in dark clothing. It was not long after the death of King George but she continued to undertake her duties. She wasn’t a stickler for protocol. She allowed me unprecedented access during that visit and, even though the men were manufacturing toilet seats, she did not flinch for a second when asked to pose, even though her aides were desperately trying to shield her. That was her nature. She saw her position as a duty. She treated everyone with the same refinement.”
And that was just the beginning for Mr Coupar. In 1953, he left his job with The Courier, the newspaper for which he worked, to join the RAF, but by 1955, he had returned to attend and photograph The Queen Mother’s annual visits to Scotland. Despite returning to newspaper, and later launching his own studio, Mr Coupar continued to follow The Queen Mother until the late 1990s – and was surprised to find that she recognised him.
“I was asked to photograph her at the Royal Tournament and to my surprise she recognised me,” he said. “There was always this feeling she knew who you were. She had the most fantastic memory, was incredibly organised and remembered fine details – even where you went on holiday. She once even stopped to talk to my wife and I after spotting us in a crowd. She had a truly common touch. People said this about Princess Diana but the Queen Mother was exceptional.”
The collection at Glamis Castle has been personally viewed by around 2.5 million people, and showcases Elizabeth’s love for Scotland and all things Scottish.
“My favourite photograph was taken during a trip to Glen Clova near Loch Muick on Deeside,” Mr. Coupar recalls. “We’d been asked to assemble at 7am and head to the summit. She was meeting members of the Black Watch and their families. It was a misty day, and the most extraordinary setting. As we descended, her car stopped. I was dispatched to find out if something was wrong, and she said to me, ‘Isn’t this the most beautiful place on earth?’ She truly loved Scotland and was a credit to the country.”
Photo Credit: Beth