Ten things you didn’t know about the Queen Mother.
Elizabeth Bowes Lyons was the mother of England’s Queen Elizabeth II. She was one of the most popular members of the royal family until her death in 2002 at the age of one hundred and one.
Even though 2002 doesn’t seem too long ago, it seems that she is largely forgotten these days but she was a very popular and influential woman in the twentieth century.
She is, in many ways, credited with the creation of the ‘modern royal family’ having revolutionised the British monarchy during the reign as queen consort.
Today, we are accustomed to seeing the princes, William and Harry, plus the remainder of the royal family, out and about meeting people.
This was instigated by Elizabeth and she was known as the ‘people’s princess’ decades before Diana came along and took the title.
But that was just one way in which she influenced the royal family – and the world. During the Second World War, Adolf Hitler referred to her as ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe’.
She didn’t marry a prince with the thought of becoming queen – the throne was thrust upon the unexpectedly – but she fulfilled the role admirably, despite a relatively ‘humble’ background. In those days, the second in line to the throne was expected to marry another royal.
Her place of birth has never been known but she was born to a Scottish lord. Although she thought of herself as a Scot, it’s unlikely that she was born in Scotland. ‘Somewhere in London’ is far more likely.
She was born when Queen Victoria was still on the throne – in 1900. Because her family was minor nobility, she was known as a child as the Honorable Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. She became Lady Elizabeth when her father inherited the family earldom.
There was a later scandal surrounding her birth. Her full name is Elizabeth Angela Marguerite and it hasbeen suggested that she was the product of a surrogate mother. It’s claimed that her biological mother was the family cook, a woman called Marguerite Rodiere.
This is despite the fact that her parents already had eight children. The ‘fact’ that they wanted even more and had to resort to a surrogate seems unlikely … doesn’t it?
Elizabeth was fourteen when the First World War started. Four of her brothers fought in the war. One was reported missing but actually spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp. Her brother Fergus however was killed during the war. When Elizabeth married she placed her bridal bouquet on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour him.
This is a grave in Westminster Abbey representing all the men who died in the war. This started a tradition. Ever since, royal brides marrying in the abbey have had their bouquets placed on the tomb although now it is after the photographs have been taken and so on.
When Elizabeth married the Duke of York, he was second in line to the throne. This was in 1923. Another scandal later implied that she did not conceive her two daughters (Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret) naturally. It was suggested that some sort of artificial insemination was used.
This was supposedly because Elizabeth ‘didn’t like sex’. This theory was published after Elizabeth’s death. Anyone who would have been party to this ‘information’ was also long gone.
It was discovered that two of her nieces had been confined to mental institutions during the Second World War. It was later found that a further three nieces had suffered the same fate. All these women remained in institutions all their lives. The press grasped this fact with glee. Did this mean that there was a strain of insanity in the royal family?
What these stories did not explain was that these women (cousins to Her Majesty the Queen) had received their genetic problems from their maternal side of the family – the woman the Queen Mother’s brother had married. It did not originate with the Bowes Lyons.
The Duke and Duchess of York became king and queen due to the abdication of the duke’s older brother, Edward VIII. He abdicated so that he could marry his divorced American mistress, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth was quoted as saying that the two people who had given her the most trouble in her life were Adolf Hitler and Mrs Simpson – who Elizabeth referred to as ‘that woman’.
Edward and Mrs Simpson referred to Elizabeth as ‘Cookie’. See point number two above.
Once crowned, the king and queen were not immediately popular. The king seemed to be boring after the rather dashing, wild-living King Edward VIII. The new king and queen on the other hand were a happily married couple with two small daughters – they preferred a quiet, domestic life.
Elizabeth changed this during the Second World War. She tirelessly visited bombed areas, hospitals and factories, earning her the huge respect of the British people.
Elizabeth was a widow for much longer than she was a wife. He husband the king died in 1952 at the early age of fifty six. It’s said that Elizabeth believed that the strain of being king contributed enormously to his early death. When her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II, she continued with royal duties and became known – affectionately – as the Queen Mum.
She offered great stability for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with humour and fun.
When she celebrated her one hundredth and first birthday on August 4th, 2001, she was aware that crowds had gathered in London hoping to catch glimpse of her. She insisted on going out amongst the crowds to thank them for their good wishes despite her recent ill health.
Although she was mostly confined to a wheelchair she insisted on standing at a memorial service that took place on the fiftieth anniversary of her husband’s death – just a few weeks before she died.
Elizabeth died on March 30th, 2002. As is customary, her body lay in state. Crowds of people filed past to show their respect. When a member of the royal family is lying in state, their coffins are always guarded by the armed forces.
In an event that had only happened once before in history, four of her grandsons, including Prince Charles, took over from the ceremonial guards. This is known as the Vigil of the Princes. For the duration of the vigil, other members of the royal family remained in there in silence, showing their respect.
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