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Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
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Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Alternative meanings: Elizabeth the Queen Mother (disambiguation)

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (August 4, 1900 - March 30, 2002), was the Queen consort of George VI and the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and The Princess Margaret. She was styled The Honourable Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon from birth until 1904, The Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon from 1904 (when her father became an Earl) until 1923, HRH The Duchess of York from 1923 (when she married) until 1936, HM Queen Elizabeth from 1936 (when her husband became King) until 1952 and HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1952 (when her husband died) until her death.

Table of contents
1 Early Life
2 Prince Albert
3 Queen Consort to George VI (1936-1952)
4 Queen Mother (1952-2002)
5 Death
6 External links

Early Life

Born in 1900 in her parents' London, England home, her birth was registered at St. Paul's, Waldenbury, their Hertfordshire house due to the preference of her parents. She was the fourth daughter and the ninth of ten children of Claude George Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (later 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne), and his wife, Nina Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. She spent much of her childhood at the family's English country home in Hertfordshire and in Scotland at Glamis Castle.

The First World War broke out when she was 14 years old. Her elder brother, Fergus, an officer in the Black Watch Regiment, was killed in action at Loos, France in 1915. Another brother, Michael, was reported missing in action in May 1917. However, he had actually been captured after being wounded and remained in a Prisoner of War camp for the rest of the War. Glamis was turned into a convalescence home for wounded soldiers, which Elizabeth helped to run. One of the soldiers she treated is believed to have written on a card that she was to be "Hung, drawn and quartered: hung in diamonds, drawn by the best carriages, and quartered in the finest palaces in the land".

Prince Albert

When Prince Albert, the second son of George V, proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, she turned him down: "afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to." When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, the formidable Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl who had stolen her son's heart. She then arranged for Albert's rival, the Earl of Moray, to be conveniently dispatched to a post overseas, clearing the prince's way.

They married on April 26, 1923 at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on her way into the Abbey, a gesture which every royal bride since has copied, though on the way back from the altar rather than to it. She became styled HRH The Duchess of York. They honeymooned at a manor house in Surrey and then went to Scotland. In 1926 the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, Elizabeth, who would later become Queen Elizabeth II. Another daughter, Margaret Rose, was born four years later.

Queen Consort to George VI (1936-1952)

On January 20, 1936, King George V died, and the succession passed to Albert's elder brother David, the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VIII . Edward however decided to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and was forced to abdicate. Quite unexpectedly Elizabeth's husband Albert became king as King George VI and she consort to the monarch, becoming Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Empress of India (until 1947), and of her husband's multiple Commonwealth Realms, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. They were crowned on May 12, 1937. Her new crown contained the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

It is said George VI wept on hearing the news he would become King - and Elizabeth never forgave Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson for their actions. When the couple were created Duke and Duchess of Windsor, she was responsible for the decision not to give Wallis Simpson the style of Her Royal Highness. Even at the funeral of the Duke in 1972, when Wallis was physically frail and becoming senile, she refused to talk to her.

During the Second World War the King and Queen became symbols of the nation's resistance, and Queen Elizabeth publicly refused to leave London during the Blitz, despite being advised by the Cabinet to travel to safety in Canada. "The princesses will never leave without me; I will not leave without the King, and the King will never leave," she said. She often made visits to parts of London that were targeted by the German Luftwaffe, in particular the East End, near London's docks. Buckingham Palace itself took several hits during the height of the bombing, prompting Elizabeth to say, "Now I feel I can look the East End in the face".

For security and family reasons, the King and Queen spent their nights not at the Palace (which in any case had lost much of its staff to the army) but at Windsor Castle, about 35 kilometres (20 miles) west of central London, where their daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, lived during the war years. However, they did work from the Palace, spending most of the day there. In June of 1939, she and her husband became the first reigning British King and Queen to visit the United States of America.

Because of her effect on British morale, Adolf Hitler called her "The most dangerous woman in Europe", and said that "If Churchill is the man in Europe I must fear most, then surely she is the woman I have most to fear of in Europe!". Prior to the war, however, both she and her husband like most of parliament and the United Kingdom were strong supporters of appeasement and Neville Chamberlain, believing after the experience of the First World War that war had to be avoided at all costs. After the resignation of Chamberlain, the King commissioned Winston Churchill to form a government.

Queen Mother (1952-2002)

Shortly after King George VI died of lung cancer, on February 6, 1952, she began to be styled "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother". (This style was adopted because the normal style for the widow of a King, "Queen Elizabeth", would have been too similar to the style of her elder daughter, now Queen Elizabeth II, and the alternative style "The Queen Dowager" could not be used because a senior widowed Queen, Queen Mary, the widow of King George V, was still alive.) Popularly, she was simply "the Queen Mother" or even "the Queen Mum".

After the death of her husband the grieving Queen Mother went to Scotland. To keep occupied she oversaw the restoration of the remote Castle of Mey on the Caithness coast. It later became her favourite home. She also developed an interest in horse racing that continued for the rest of her life. She soon resumed her public duties, however, and eventually became as busy as Queen Mother as she had been as Queen.

Before the advent of Diana, Princess of Wales and after her death, the Queen Mother was by far the most popular member of the British Royal Family, with a charm and theatrical flair that marked her apart. Her signature dress of large upturned hat with netting and dresses with draped panels of fabric created a most distinctive royal wardrobe.

Behind the soft charm however lay a canny intelligence and iron will, as demonstrated by the shrewd support she gave George VI, her thwarting of the ambitions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and also by her sheer endurance. Like many of her generation, the Queen Mother held a "never complain, never explain" attitude to life, which saw her through many private sorrows and difficulties.

The Queen Mother had a love of the arts which included purchasing works by Claude Monet, Augustus John and Peter Carl Fabergé, amongst others. These were transferred to the Royal Collection after her death.

In her later years, she became known for her longevity. Her birthdays became times of celebration and, as a popular figure, she helped to increase the popularity of the monarchy as a whole. When criticism of the royal family increased in the 1980s, her queenly lifestyle, including the employment of 40 staff, and running a massive bank overdraft received some negative comment. However her defenders argued that her daughter Queen Elizabeth II, who subsidised much of it, simply allowed her mother to live the sort of life to which the Queen Dowager and former empress had become accustomed. The Queen Mother was not unique in this. Her father-in-law, King George V often despaired of his mother's spending habits, but he continued to subsidise Queen Alexandra throughout her widowhood.

The Queen Mother's penchant for gin and tonic, and her very large overdraft at Coutts Bank, was also widely commented on by both her fans and detractors. They were also regularly parodied by television programme Spitting Image, which also portrayed her with a working class accent and an ever-present copy of the Racing Times.

Though a woman who had deliberately declined to do public interviews, the Queen Mother possessed a dry and often sardonic wit, and some of her 'one-liners' were regularly quoted by the media. Coming across a group of teenagers throwing stones at cars, she wound down the window of her passing Rolls-Royce and asked them to stop, with the inspired riposte: "Whatever would American tourists think?" On one occasion, when in her nineties, she asked a group of pensioners "is it just me or are pensioners getting younger these days?" On another occasion, she was rumoured to have urged her daughter the Queen not to have a second glass of wine at lunch, with the admonition, "Is that wise, darling? Remember you have to reign all afternoon."

On another occasion, accompanied by the homosexual Sir Noel Coward to a gala function, the two mounted a staircase lined with guardsmen. Noticing Coward's eye's flicker momentarily across the soldiers, Her Majesty murmured to him without missing a beat: "I wouldn't if I were you, Noel; they count them before they put them out."

After her death, her great-grandsons, Princes William and Harry told of another amusing incident. The one hundred year old lady had walked in on them during Christmas at Sandringham while they were watching a video of the controversial English comedian Ali G. The princes showed her how to click her fingers while enunciating Ali's signature catchphrase... which she wasted no time in using. Rising from her seat after Christmas dinner, she looked The Queen in the eye, clicked her fingers, and like Ali G, quipped: "Respect!"

She also employed a largely homosexual personal staff and once said, after her gin and tonic was continuously delayed by backstairs bickering, "When one of you old queens has finished can you bring this old queen a drink?" According to an article in The Observer (November 10, 2002), after being advised by "a Tory Minister in the 1970s not to employ homosexuals, the Queen Mother observed that without them, "we'd have to go self-service."

Her most famous and quotable 'soundbites' remain those (quoted above) from the War years, notably her explanation for why her family would not evacuate to safety in Canada.

The Queen Mother's hundredth birthday was celebrated in suitably grand style, including a parade that celebrated the highlights of her life. She again demonstrated the signature fortitude for which she was so admired, by standing for over an hour while the parade passed by.

The last function the Queen Mother attended was the funeral of her second daughter Princess Margaret.

Death

Queen Elizabeth died peacefully in her sleep at the Royal Lodge at Windsor, with the Queen at her bedside, on March 30, 2002, at around 3:15pm, Greenwich Mean Time. She was 101 years old.

More than 200,000 people filed by her coffin as it lay in state in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster for three days, many of them braving lines that snaked back through Victoria Tower Gardens, across Lambeth Bridge, and along the south bank of the Thames for as long as 14 hours in cold winds. There were so many people that officials had to extend the opening hours through the nights and up until dawn on the day of the funeral. However, it has since been alleged that the passage of people through the hall was deliberately slowed down in order to make queues build, and thus make the Queen Mother, and the whole institution of monarchy, appear more popular than it is.

Her four grandsons stood watch, for an hour, over the bier as the late queen lay in state. She had six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren at the time of her death.

On the day of the Queen Mother's funeral, more than a million people filled the area outside Westminster Abbey and along the 23-mile route from central London to her final resting place beside her husband and younger daughter in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

On her wedding day, as she was about to enter Westminster Abbey, the then Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon spontaneously placed her bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. At her request, after her funeral the wreath that had lain atop the coffin of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was placed on the same tomb.

The Queen Mother held the distinction of being the last surviving Queen of Ireland and Empress of India, the former fact marked by the presence of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, at her funeral.

External links