Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
|The Queen Mother|
Portrait by Richard Stone, 1986
Queen consort of the United Kingdom
and the British Dominions
11 December 1936 –
6 February 1952
|Coronation||12 May 1937|
|Empress consort of India|
11 December 1936 –
14 August 1947
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
|House||House of Windsor (by marriage)|
|Father||Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne|
4 August 1900|
London or Hitchin
30 March 2002
Royal Lodge, Windsor, Berkshire
9 April 2002|
and the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. She was queen consort of the United Kingdom from her husband's accession in 1936 until his death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter. She was the last Empress of India.
Born into a family of Queen Mary. The couple and their daughters embodied traditional ideas of family and public service. She undertook a variety of public engagements and became known as the "Smiling Duchess" because of her consistent public expression.
In 1936, her husband unexpectedly became King when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. As Queen, Elizabeth accompanied her husband on diplomatic tours to France and North America before the start of World War II. During the war, her seemingly indomitable spirit provided moral support to the British public. In recognition of her role as an asset to British interests, Adolf Hitler described her as "the most dangerous woman in Europe". After the war, her husband's health deteriorated and she was widowed at the age of 51.
On the death of her mother-in-law, Queen Mary, in 1953 and with the former King Edward VIII living abroad and her elder daughter, the new Queen, aged 27, Elizabeth became the senior member of the British Royal Family and assumed a position as family matriarch. In her later years, she was a consistently popular member of the family, even when other members were suffering from low levels of public approval. She continued an active public life until just a few months before her death at the age of 101, seven weeks after the death of her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the youngest daughter and the ninth of ten children of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (later the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland), and his wife, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. Her mother was descended from British Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Governor-General of India Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was the elder brother of another Prime Minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
The location of her birth remains uncertain, but reputedly she was born either in her parents' Westminster home at Belgrave Mansions, Grosvenor Gardens, or in a horse-drawn ambulance on the way to a hospital. Other possible locations include Forbes House in Ham, London, the home of her maternal grandmother, Louisa Scott. Her birth was registered at Hitchin, Hertfordshire, near the Strathmores' English country house, St Paul's Walden Bury, which was also given as her birthplace in the census the following year. She was christened there on 23 September 1900, in the local parish church, All Saints, and her godparents included her paternal aunt Lady Maud Bowes-Lyon and cousin Venetia James.
She spent much of her childhood at St Paul's Walden and at Glamis Castle, the Earl's ancestral home in Scotland. She was educated at home by a governess until the age of eight, and was fond of field sports, ponies and dogs. When she started school in London, she astonished her teachers by precociously beginning an essay with two Greek words from Xenophon's Anabasis. Her best subjects were literature and scripture. After returning to private education under a German Jewish governess, Käthe Kübler, she passed the Oxford Local Examination with distinction at age 13.
On her fourteenth birthday, Britain  One of the soldiers she treated wrote in her autograph book that she was to be "Hung, drawn, & quartered ... Hung in diamonds, drawn in a coach and four, and quartered in the best house in the land."
Marriage to Prince Albert
 When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl who had stolen her son's heart. She became convinced that Elizabeth was "the one girl who could make Bertie happy", but nevertheless refused to interfere. At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert's equerry, until he left the Prince's service for a better-paid job in the American oil business.
In February 1922, Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Albert's sister, Princess Mary, to Viscount Lascelles. The following month, Albert proposed again, but she refused him once more. Eventually, in January 1923, Elizabeth agreed to marry Albert, despite her misgivings about royal life. Albert's freedom in choosing Elizabeth, not a member of a royal family, though the daughter of a peer, was considered a gesture in favour of political modernisation; previously, princes were expected to marry princesses from other royal families. They selected a platinum engagement ring featuring a Kashmir sapphire with two diamonds adorning its sides. They married on 26 April 1923, at Westminster Abbey. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on her way into the Abbey, in memory of her brother Fergus. Elizabeth became styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York. Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, the new Duchess and her husband honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey, and then went to Scotland, where she caught "unromantic" whooping cough.
Duchess of York
After a successful visit to Northern Ireland in July 1924, the Labour government agreed that Albert and Elizabeth could tour East Africa from December 1924 to April 1925. The Labour government was defeated by the Conservatives in a general election in November (which Elizabeth described as "marvellous" to her mother) and the Governor-General of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Sir Lee Stack, was assassinated three weeks later. Despite this, the tour went ahead, and they visited Aden, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, but Egypt was avoided because of political tensions.
Albert had a stammer, which affected his ability to deliver speeches, and after October 1925, Elizabeth assisted in helping him through the therapy devised by Lionel Logue, an episode portrayed in the 2010 film The King's Speech. In 1926, the couple had their first child, Princess Elizabeth – "Lilibet" to the family – who would later become Queen Elizabeth II. Another daughter, Princess Margaret Rose, was born four years later. Albert and Elizabeth, without their child, travelled to Australia to open Parliament House in Canberra in 1927. She was, in her own words, "very miserable at leaving the baby". Their journey by sea took them via Jamaica, the Panama Canal and the Pacific; Elizabeth fretted constantly over her baby back in Britain, but their journey was a public relations success. She charmed the public in Fiji when shaking hands with a long line of official guests, as a stray dog walked in on the ceremony and she shook its paw as well. In New Zealand she fell ill with a cold, and missed some engagements, but enjoyed the local fishing in the Bay of Islands accompanied by Australian sports fisherman Harry Andreas. On the return journey, via Mauritius, the Suez Canal, Malta and Gibraltar, their transport, HMS Renown, caught fire and they prepared to abandon ship before the fire was brought under control.
Accession and abdication of Edward VIII
On 20 January 1936, 
Just months into his reign, Edward forced a crowned King and Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions, and Emperor and Empress of India on 12 May 1937, the date already nominated for the coronation of Edward VIII. Elizabeth's crown was made of platinum and was set with the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
Edward and Simpson married and became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but while Edward was a Royal Highness, George VI withheld the style from the Duchess, a decision that Elizabeth supported. Elizabeth was later quoted as referring to the Duchess as "that woman", and the Duchess referred to Elizabeth as "Cookie", because of her supposed resemblance to a fat Scots cook. Claims that Elizabeth remained embittered towards the Duchess were denied by her close friends; the Duke of Grafton wrote that she "never said anything nasty about the Duchess of Windsor, except to say she really hadn't got a clue what she was dealing with."
State visits and royal tour
In summer 1938, a state visit to France by the King and Queen was postponed for three weeks because of the death of the Queen's mother, Lady Strathmore. In two weeks, Norman Hartnell created an all-white trousseau for the Queen, who could not wear colours as she was still in mourning. The visit was designed to bolster Anglo-French solidarity in the face of aggression from Nazi Germany. The French press praised the demeanour and charm of the royal couple during the delayed but successful visit, augmented by Hartnell's wardrobe.
Nevertheless, Nazi aggression continued, and the government prepared for war. After the Munich Agreement of 1938 appeared to forestall the advent of armed conflict, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was invited onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the King and Queen to receive acclamation from a crowd of well-wishers. While broadly popular among the general public, Chamberlain's policy towards Hitler was the subject of some opposition in the House of Commons, which led historian John Grigg to describe the King's behaviour in associating himself so prominently with a politician as "the most unconstitutional act by a British sovereign in the present century". However, historians have also argued that the King only ever followed ministerial advice and acted as he was constitutionally bound to do.
In June 1939, Elizabeth and her husband  Elizabeth told Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, "that tour made us", and she returned to Canada frequently both on official tours and privately.
World War II
During World War II, the King and Queen became symbols of the fight against fascism. Shortly after the declaration of war, The Queen's Book of the Red Cross was conceived. Fifty authors and artists contributed to the book, which was fronted by Cecil Beaton's portrait of the Queen and was sold in aid of the Red Cross. Elizabeth publicly refused to leave London or send the children to Canada, even during the Blitz, when she was advised by the Cabinet to do so. She declared, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."
She visited troops, hospitals, factories, and parts of Britain that were targeted by the German Luftwaffe, in particular the East End, near London's docks. Her visits initially provoked hostility; rubbish was thrown at her and the crowds jeered, in part because she wore expensive clothes that served to alienate her from people suffering the deprivations of war. She explained that if the public came to see her they would wear their best clothes, so she should reciprocate in kind; Norman Hartnell dressed her in gentle colours and avoided black to represent "the rainbow of hope". When Buckingham Palace itself took several hits during the height of the bombing, Elizabeth was able to say, "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face."
Though the King and Queen spent the working day at Buckingham Palace, partly for security and family reasons they stayed at night at Windsor Castle about 20 miles (32 km) west of central London with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The Palace had lost much of its staff to the army, and most of the rooms were shut. The windows were shattered by bomb blasts, and had to be boarded up. During the "Phoney War" the Queen was given revolver training because of fears of imminent invasion.
Adolf Hitler is said to have called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe" because he viewed her popularity as a threat to German interests. However, before the war both she and her husband, like most of Parliament and the British public, had supported appeasement and Prime Minister 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 asked Winston Churchill to form a government. Although the King was initially suspicious of his character and motives, in due course both the King and Queen came to respect and admire him. At the end of the war in 1945, Churchill was invited onto the balcony in a similar gesture to that given to Chamberlain.
In the 1945 British general election, Churchill's Conservative party was soundly defeated by the Labour party of Clement Attlee. Elizabeth's political views were rarely disclosed, but a letter she wrote in 1947 described Attlee's "high hopes of a socialist heaven on earth" as fading and presumably describes those who voted for him as "poor people, so many half-educated and bemused. I do love them." Woodrow Wyatt thought her "much more pro-Conservative" than other members of the royal family, but she later told him, "I like the dear old Labour Party." She also told the Duchess of Grafton, "I love communists". After six years in office, Attlee was defeated in the 1951 British general election and Churchill returned to power.
During the 1947 royal tour of South Africa, Elizabeth's serene public behaviour was broken, exceptionally, when she rose from the royal car to strike an admirer with her umbrella because she had mistaken his enthusiasm for hostility. The 1948 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed because of the King's increasing ill health. In March 1949, he had a successful operation to improve the circulation in his right leg. In summer 1951, Queen Elizabeth and her daughters fulfilled the King's public engagements in his place. In September, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. After a lung resection, he appeared to recover, but the delayed trip to Australia and New Zealand was altered so that Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, went in the King and Queen's place, in January 1952. The King died while Princess Elizabeth and the Duke were in Kenya en route to the southern hemisphere, and they returned immediately to London as the new Queen and consort. They would not finally visit Australia and New Zealand until 1954.
King George VI died in his sleep on 6 February 1952. Elizabeth began to be styled as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother 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. Popularly, she became the "Queen Mother" or the "Queen Mum".
She was devastated by the King's death and retired to Scotland. However, after a meeting with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, she broke her retirement and resumed her public duties. Eventually she became just as busy as Queen Mother as she had been as Queen. In July 1953, she undertook her first overseas visit since the funeral when she visited the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland with Princess Margaret. She laid the foundation stone of the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland – the current University of Zimbabwe. On her return to the region in 1957, she was inaugurated as the College's President, and attended other events that were deliberately designed to be multi-racial. During her daughter's extensive tour of the Commonwealth over 1953–54, Elizabeth acted as a Counsellor of State and looked after her grandchildren, Charles and Anne.
She oversaw the restoration of the remote Castle of Mey on the Caithness coast of Scotland, which she used to "get away from everything" for three weeks in August and ten days in October each year. Inspired by the amateur jockey Lord Mildmay, she developed an interest in horse racing, particularly steeplechasing, that continued for the rest of her life. She owned the winners of approximately 500 races. Her distinctive colours of blue with buff stripes were carried by horses such as Special Cargo, the winner of the 1984 Whitbread Gold Cup, and Devon Loch, which spectacularly halted just short of the winning post at the 1956 Grand National and whose jockey Dick Francis later had a successful career as the writer of racing-themed detective stories. Although (contrary to rumour) she never placed bets, she did have the racing commentaries piped direct to her London residence, Clarence House, so she could follow the races. As an art collector, she purchased works by Claude Monet, Augustus John and Peter Carl Fabergé, among others.
In February 1964, she had an emergency appendectomy, which led to the postponement of a planned tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji until 1966. She recuperated during a Caribbean cruise aboard the royal yacht, Britannia. In December 1966, she underwent an operation to remove a tumour after she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Contrary to rumours, she did not have a colostomy. In 1982, she was rushed to hospital when a fish bone became stuck in her throat, and had an operation to remove it. Being a keen angler, she calmly joked afterwards, "The salmon have got their own back." Similar incidents occurred at Balmoral in August 1986, when she was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but no operation was needed, and May 1993, when she was admitted to the Infirmary for surgery under general anaesthetic. In 1984, she had a second operation for cancer, when a lump was removed from her breast, and a second gastric obstruction in 1986 cleared without the need for an operation, but she was hospitalised overnight.
In 1975, she visited Iran at the invitation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The British ambassador and his wife, Anthony and Sheila Parsons, noted how the Iranians were bemused by her habit of speaking to everyone regardless of status or importance, and hoped the Shah's entourage would learn from the visit to pay more attention to ordinary people. Four years later, the Shah was deposed. Between 1976 and 1984, she made annual summer visits to France, which were among 22 private trips to continental Europe between 1963 and 1992.
Before the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to her grandson, Prince Charles, in 1981, and after Diana's death, Queen Elizabeth—known for her personal and public charm—was by far the most popular member of the royal family. Her signature dress of large upturned hat with netting and dresses with draped panels of fabric became a distinctive personal style.
In her later years, the Queen Mother became known for her longevity. Her 90th birthday—4 August 1990—was celebrated by a parade on 27 June that involved many of the 300 organisations of which she was patron. In 1995, she attended events commemorating the end of the war fifty years before, and had two operations: one to remove a cataract in her left eye, and one to replace her right hip. In 1998, her left hip was replaced after it was broken when she slipped and fell during a visit to Archbishop of Canterbury, accidentally attempted to drink her glass of wine. Her quick admonition of "That's mine!" caused widespread amusement. In November 2000, she broke her collarbone in a fall that kept her recuperating at home over Christmas and the New Year. On 1 August 2001, she had a blood transfusion for anaemia after suffering from mild heat exhaustion, though she was well enough to make her traditional appearance outside Clarence House three days later to celebrate her 101st birthday. Her final public engagements included planting a cross at the Field of Remembrance on 8 November 2001; a reception at the Guildhall, London, for the reformation of the 600 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force on 15 November; and attending the re-commissioning of HMS Ark Royal on 22 November.
In December 2001, aged 101, she fractured her  even though the Queen and the rest of the royal family were concerned about the journey the Queen Mother would face to get from Norfolk to Windsor; she was also rumoured to be hardly eating. Nevertheless, she flew to Windsor by helicopter, and so that no photographs of her in a wheelchair could be taken—she insisted that she be shielded from the press—she travelled to the service in a people carrier with blacked–out windows, which had been previously used by Margaret. On 5 March 2002, she was present at the luncheon of the annual lawn party of the Eton Beagles, and watched the Cheltenham Races on television; however, her health began to deteriorate precipitately during her last weeks after retreating to Royal Lodge for the final time.
On 30 March 2002, at 3:15 pm, the Queen Mother died in her sleep at the Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park, with her surviving daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, at her bedside. She had been suffering from a cold for the last four months of her life. She was 101 years old, and at the time of her death was the longest-lived member of the royal family in British history. This record was broken on 24 July 2003, by her last surviving sister-in-law Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, who died aged 102 on 29 October 2004.
Elizabeth grew King George V.
On the day of her  At her request, after her funeral the wreath that had lain atop her coffin was placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, in a gesture that echoed her wedding-day tribute 79 years before.
Despite being regarded as one of the most popular members of the royal family in recent times who helped to stabilise the popularity of the monarchy as a whole, Elizabeth was subject to various degrees of criticism during her life.
Kitty Kelley alleged that during World War II Elizabeth did not abide by the rationing regulations. This is contradicted by the official records, and Eleanor Roosevelt during her wartime stay at Buckingham Palace reported expressly on the rationed food served in the Palace and the limited bathwater that was permitted.
Further allegations that Elizabeth used racist slurs to refer to black people were strongly denied by Major Colin Burgess. Major Burgess was the husband of Elizabeth Burgess, a mixed-race secretary who accused members of the Prince of Wales's Household of racial abuse. Queen Elizabeth made no public comments on race, but according to Robert Rhodes James in private she "abhorred racial discrimination" and decried apartheid as "dreadful". Woodrow Wyatt records in his diary that when he expressed the view that non-white countries have nothing in common with "us", she told him, "I am very keen on the Commonwealth. They're all like us." However, she did distrust Germans; she told Woodrow Wyatt, "Never trust them, never trust them." While she may have held such views, it has been argued that they were normal for British people of her generation and upbringing, who had experienced two vicious wars with Germany.
In 1987, she was criticised when it emerged that two of her nieces, Katherine Bowes-Lyon and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, had both been committed to a psychiatric hospital because they were severely handicapped. However, Burke's Peerage had listed the sisters as dead, apparently because their mother, Fenella (the Queen Mother's sister-in-law), "was 'extremely vague' when it came to filling in forms and might not have completed the paperwork for the family entry correctly". When Nerissa had died the year before, her grave was originally marked with a plastic tag and a serial number. The Queen Mother claimed that the news of their institutionalisation came as a surprise to her.
Sir Hugh Casson said she was like "a wave breaking on a rock, because although she is sweet and pretty and charming, she also has a basic streak of toughness and tenacity. ... when a wave breaks on a rock, it showers and sparkles with a brilliant play of foam and droplets in the sun, yet beneath is really hard, tough rock, fused, in her case, from strong principles, physical courage and a sense of duty." Peter Ustinov described her during a student demonstration at the University of Dundee in 1968, "As we arrived in a solemn procession the students pelted us with toilet rolls. They kept hold of one end, like streamers at a ball, and threw the other end. The Queen Mother stopped and picked these up as though somebody had misplaced them. [Returning them to the students she said,] 'Was this yours? Oh, could you take it?' And it was her sang-froid and her absolute refusal to be shocked by this, which immediately silenced all the students. She knows instinctively what to do on those occasions. She doesn't rise to being heckled at all; she just pretends it must be an oversight on the part of the people doing it. The way she reacted not only showed her presence of mind, but was so charming and so disarming, even to the most rabid element, that she brought peace to troubled waters."
She was well known for her dry witticisms. On hearing that Edwina Mountbatten was buried at sea, she said: "Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash." Accompanied by the gay writer Sir Noël Coward at a gala, she mounted a staircase lined with Guards. Noticing Coward's eyes flicker momentarily across the soldiers, she murmured to him: "I wouldn't if I were you, Noël; they count them before they put them out." After being advised by a Conservative Minister in the 1970s not to employ homosexuals, the Queen Mother observed that without them, "we'd have to go self-service". On the fate of a gift of a nebuchadnezzar of champagne (20 bottles' worth) even if her family didn't come for the holidays, she said, "I'll polish it off myself." Emine Saner of The Guardian suggests that with a gin and Dubonnet at noon, red wine with lunch, a port and martini at 6 pm and two glasses of champagne at dinner, "a conservative estimate puts the number of alcohol units she drank at 70 a week". Her extravagant lifestyle amused journalists, particularly when it was revealed she had a multi-million pound overdraft with Coutts Bank.
Her habits were often parodied (with relative affection) by the satirical 1980s television programme Spitting Image – which portrayed her with a Birmingham accent and an ever-present copy of the Racing Post. She was portrayed in the 2002 television film Bertie and Elizabeth by Juliet Aubrey, the 2006 film The Queen by Sylvia Syms and the 2010 film The King's Speech by Helena Bonham Carter, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal. She was also played by Natalie Dormer in the film W.E., directed by Madonna and by Olivia Colman in the 2012 film Hyde Park on Hudson, which featured Elizabeth and Albert's visit to President Roosevelt's estate.
The Cunard White Star Line's RMS Queen Elizabeth was named after her. She launched the ship on 27 September 1938 in Clydebank, Scotland. Supposedly, the liner started to slide into the water before Elizabeth could officially launch her, and acting sharply, she managed to smash a bottle of Australian red over the liner's bow just before it slid out of reach. In 1954, Queen Elizabeth sailed to New York on her namesake.
In March 2011, her eclectic musical taste was revealed when details of her small record collection kept at the Castle of Mey were made public. Her records included ska, local folk, Scottish reels and the musicals Oklahoma! and The King and I, and artists such as yodeller Montana Slim, Tony Hancock, The Goons and Noël Coward.
Eight years before her death, she had reportedly placed two-thirds of her money into trusts, for the benefit of her great-grandchildren. She left the bulk of her estate, estimated to be worth £70 million, including paintings, Fabergé eggs, jewellery, and horses, to her surviving daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. As property passing from monarch to monarch is exempt from Inheritance Tax, as is property passing from the consort of a former monarch to the current monarch, a tax liability estimated at £28 million (40% of the value of the estate) was not incurred. The most important pieces of art were transferred to the Royal Collection by Elizabeth II.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
Queen Elizabeth's coat of arms was the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom (in either the English or the Scottish version) impaled with the arms of her father, the Earl of Strathmore; the latter being: 1st and 4th quarters, Argent, a lion rampant Azure, armed and langued Gules, within a double tressure flory-counter-flory of the second (Lyon); 2nd and 3rd quarters, Ermine, three bows stringed paleways proper (Bowes). The shield is surmounted by the imperial crown, and supported by the crowned lion of England and a lion rampant per fess Or and Gules.