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Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Queen Elizabeth (August 4, 1900 - March 30, 2002), born Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, was the Queen consort and wife of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.

Born in 1900 at St Paul's Waldenbury, the Hertfordshire house of her parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, she was the ninth of ten children. Born and brought up a 'commoner', she spent much of her childhood at the family's English country home in Hertfordshire and in Scotland at Glamis Castle.

World War I broke out when she was 14 years old. Her eldest brother Fergus, an officer in the Black Watch, was killed in action at Loos in 1915. Glamis Castle was turned into a convalescence home for wounded soldiers, which Lady Elizabeth helped to run.


Princess Albert, Duchess of York
After turning down his first two proposals, she married Prince Albert, the second son of George V, on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey. She became HRH The Princess Albert, though as her husband was immediately granted a peerage of Duke of York, she became styled HRH The Duchess of York. After the wedding 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, 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 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, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa. They were crowned on May 12, 1937. Her new crown contained the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

During World War II 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 Germans, 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. They did, however, work from the palace, spending most of the day there.

Because of her effect on British morale, Adolf Hitler called her "The most dangerous woman 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 World War I that war had to be avoided at all costs. Their public support of him at the palace on his return from Munich was constitutionally controversial. After the resignation of Chamberlain the King initially commissioned Lord Halifax, who had supported appeasement, to form a government. He declined and Winston Churchill was asked to form a government instead, an offer he accepted.

Queen Mother (1952-2002)

King George VI died of lung cancer on February 6, 1952, at which point she became known as H.M. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (or popularly, 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.

In her later years, she became known for her longevity and became the oldest member of any royal family in the world. Her birthdays became times of national celebration and, as a popular figure, she helped to increase the popularity of the monarchy as a whole. She had her critics, also. She was criticised for employing 40 staff, with a lifestyle that reportedly astonished her grandchildren. However her defenders argue that her daughter Queen Elizabeth II, who paid for much of it, simply allowed her mother to live the sort of life a dowager queen or royal family member would have lived in the Edwardian era when the Queen Mother was young, a lifestyle she had lived all her life and which was a relic of a bygone age of monarchy. Her penchant for Gin and Tonic was also widely commented on by both her fans and detractors. At one stage, late in life, she had a very large overdraft at her bank, Coutts, largely due to her transferring many of her assets to a trust fund for younger royals to reduce the inheritance tax her family would pay on her death.


The "Queen Mum"

Though a woman who had deliberately declined to do public interviews, some of her 'one-liners' became legendary. On one occasion, aged 100, she asked a group of pensioners 'is it just me or are pensioners getting younger these days?' On another occasion, she is supposed to have urged her daughter the Queen not to have a second glass of wine at lunch, with the admonition, 'remember you have to reign all afternoon!' After her death, her great-grandsons, Princes William and Harry reported of an incident one christmas where, having informed her who the controversial comedian Ali G was and his catchphrases, the one hundred year old Queen Mother after Christmas dinner congratulated the Queen on the dinner, before getting to her feet, looking her daughter in the eye and saying 'respect,' the comedian's catchphrase.

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 Canada, faced with the threat of nazi invasion of Britain. "The princesses will never leave without me; I will not leave without the King, and the King will never leave."

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 (GMT). She was 101 years old.

More than 200,000 people had filed by her coffin as it lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days, many of them braving lines that snaked back and forth across Thames bridges 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.

Her four male grandchildren stood watch over the bier as the late queen lay in state. She had six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren at the time of her death.

On the day of her 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 George and daughter Margaret in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

On her wedding day, as she was about to leave Westminster Abbey, Duchess Elizabeth spontaneously placed her bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At her request, after her funeral the wreath that had lain atop her coffin was placed on the same tomb.

On her death Queen Elizabeth 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.

See also: British Royal Family



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