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British RoyalsFeaturesHistoryThe Queen

Granny Knows Best: the grandparents of Elizabeth II

Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images

As we explore the grandparents of Europe’s monarchs and their influences on each monarch’s life, today let’s take a look at the grandparents of Queen Elizabeth II.

King George V

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Queen Elizabeth’s paternal grandfather was a king and emperor, a man she and her younger sister Princess Margaret often referred to as Grandpa England. King George V reigned as King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 1910 to 1936.

During his reign, George V dealt with the First World War—which led to his creation of the House of Windsor in 1917—and other major moments, including the Statute of Westminster, which led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Nations. He was a renowned stamp collector and loved shooting, preferring to spend his time in these pursuits.

He had a very affectionate relationship with his granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, and is the man who coined the nickname ‘Lilibet.’ He did not get along with his eldest son, Edward VIII, and once said that his son and heir would ruin himself within a year (after George V died in January 1936, Edward VIII did not last through a full year as king before he decided to abdicate).

He made his hopes known that his second son and granddaughter would find their way to the throne, which ultimately occurred. George V died after a long period of declining health, succumbing to his illness on 20 January 1936.

Queen Mary

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Queen Elizabeth’s paternal grandmother was a formidable woman who exerted a great influence on her granddaughter. Queen Mary, born Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, served as Queen Consort of the United Kingdom from 1910 to 1936.

She took her role, and royalty in general, very seriously, believing in performing one’s duties and being a model for the nation to emulate. When her eldest son, Edward VIII, abdicated his throne in 1936, she became extremely close to her second son, George VI, and his family, which included Princess Elizabeth.

She regularly took Elizabeth and Margaret on outings to educate them about art, culture, and what was happening in the world; and spent her time building the British Royal Family’s jewelry collection (Queen Elizabeth refers to the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, one of her most worn tiaras and a wedding gift to the future Queen Mary, as Granny’s Tiara).

She died on 24 March 1953, just over a year after George VI, and left instructions that her funeral was not to delay her granddaughter’s coronation scheduled for June. She was the only grandparent of Queen Elizabeth II who lived long enough to see her proclaimed Queen.

Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

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Queen Elizabeth’s maternal grandfather, Claude Bowes-Lyon, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, inherited his father’s title in 1904, four years after the birth of his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth. He ran several estates in Scotland and England, and served as the Lord Lieutenant of Angus until his daughter became Queen Consort in 1937 (he attended the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey and sat in the Royal Box with his granddaughters). He became a Knight of the Order of the Garter when King George VI inherited the throne.

Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see his granddaughter reign as Queen Elizabeth II: he died in 1944 at Glamis Castle.

Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne

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Queen Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, sadly never lived long enough to see her granddaughter ascend to the throne as she passed away on 23 June 1938.

Born Cecilia Nina Cavendish-Bentinck, she was a loving mother to her ten children, including Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the second youngest, who later became Queen Elizabeth. At her daughter’s wedding in 1923, she celebrated joyously (and reportedly told photographers not to waste their time taking her photograph); at her daughter and son-in-law’s coronation in 1937, she was seated in the Royal Box at Westminster Abbey alongside her granddaughters.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.