Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002) the widow of George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, popularly known as the Queen Mother was a popular figure throughout Britain for her role in providing an enduring figurehead for the Royal family.
Short Bio – Queen Mother
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born on August 4th 1900. She was the daughter of a Scottish Lord – Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore. She was a descendant of the former Scottish King – Robert the Bruce. She was the ninth of ten children.
Her education was limited, she was taught mainly at home, and as was common for her era, had little aspirations beyond marriage.
The onset of the First World War came as a shock to her quiet, conservative upbringing. Her family home was converted into a nursing ward for injured soldiers, and the young Elizabeth became involved in nursing and treating the soldiers – a duty made more poignant by the death of one of her brothers. Through nursing soldiers, Elizabeth gained confidence in talking openly to people from all backgrounds, easily and without condescension. This ease of communication and natural style endeared her to the public throughout her life.
After the end of the war, Elizabeth entered the social circles of society and after rejecting two proposals of marriage accepted a proposal to marry, Prince Albert – the second in line to the throne.
At the time, there was little expectation that Albert would ever be King. Compared to his more charming and vibrant brother Edward, Albert was shy and suffered from a stutter which made public engagements more difficult.
Together they had two daughters – Elizabeth and Margaret in 1926 and 1930 respectively.
In 1936, shortly after the passing of King George V, Britain was thrown into a constitutional crisis as it became obvious that King Edward VIII was determined to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. At the time, to marry a divorcee was considered unacceptable, and there was little sympathy for the American divorcee – that Edward was devoted to. Eventually, Edward decided to abdicate pushing the quiet Prince Albert on to the throne – crowned as George VI. It was quite a shock to the couple – especially Prince Albert. Elizabeth took it in her stride, but, nursed a grievance against Edward and his wife – feeling it should never have happened.
With the onset of war, Elizabeth decided to stay in London with her children. This was perhaps her finest hour, as she became an important figurehead touring bomb sites and helping to boost morale amongst the worst days of the London Blitz. She describes her decision to stay. ‘The princesses would never leave without me, and I would never leave without the King, and the King will never leave.” She herself narrowly avoided death when Buckingham Palace was bombed. This experience enabled her to in her own words. “look the East End in the face. Queen Elizabeth was important for retaining the prestige of the monarchy during a time when Winston Churchill became such a dominant leader of the country through his inspirational leadership. She was even known to practise firing her revolver in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
After the war, she undertook the usual Royal duties, until the untimely death of George VI in 1952. This led to her first daughter Elizabeth I, taking the throne. However, in her position as Queen Mother (wife of a deceased King), her prestige and national respect only continued to grow. She became a symbol of continuity and an emblem of the best traditions of Britain and the Royal Family. Even when she took part in unpopular events (such as unveiling a statue to Bomber Harris, and her less than sympathetic views to Princess Diana) her natural charm and smile meant her popularity never dimmed.
She also became known for her resilience and ability to endure, living through to the age of 101. She died in her sleep just weeks after her daughter – Princess Margaret had died at the age of 71.
Great Briton list – Top 100 famous Britons as voted by a BBC poll. Including Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Thomas Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I.