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British Royals

How one Elizabeth went from Queen to the Monarch’s mother

Born 4 August 1900, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon would go from a family of British nobility to becoming Queen consort. And then, eventually, she became the mother of Britain’s longest-reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921. At first, she turned him down being afraid she would never again be free to think, speak, and act. Albert declared he would marry no one else and his mother, Queen Mary went and visited Elizabeth herself to meet the girl her son was in love with.

In March 1922, Albert would propose again a month after Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at the wedding of his sister, Princess Mary. Once again, Elizabeth refused but the third time was the charm when she agreed in January 1923 to marry Albert, despite her worries about royal life. Following their 23 April wedding that same year at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York.

On 20 January 1936, King George V died and Albert’s brother, Edward, Prince of Wales ascended to the throne and became King Edward VII. Just months into his reign, he made a decision to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson which ended up causing a constitutional crisis. Legally, Edward was allowed to marry Wallis but at the time, divorced people were not allowed to remarry under the Church of England, of which Edward was Supreme Governor. Edward abdicated the throne and Albert became George VI on 11 December 1936. Being her husband was now King, this would change Elizabeth’s title and she would be Queen consort, the wife of a reigning King.

In September 1951, the King was diagnosed with lung cancer. That following January, Princess Elizabeth, and her husband, Prince Philip took the King’s place on a royal tour of the Commonwealth. King George VI died in his sleep while his daughter was on the trip and Elizabeth and Philip immediately returned to London as Queen and consort. Shortly after George VI’s death, Elizabeth, the Queen consort was titled as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The normal style of the widow of a king, “Queen Elizabeth” would have been too similar to her daughter’s new title of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen Mother continued to fulfil her royal duties until just a few months before her March 2002 death at the age of 101. She died seven weeks after the death of her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.