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HM Elizabeth, Queen Mother (1900-2002)

Australia, Coronation of George VI, Reverse

Image: Australia, Coronation of George VI, Reverse

Source: Museum Victoria

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born a commoner on August 4, 1900. She was the ninth of ten children born to Claude Bowes-Lyon and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck, a descendant of the Duke of Portland and a vicar's daughter. In spite of these supposedly humble beginnings, the family spent much of its time at Glamis Castle, in Scotland, and four years after her birth her parents became Lord and Lady Strathmore. Elizabeth was educated at home by her mother and governesses, and was fluent in French by the age of 10. At 12 she briefly attended the Misses Birtwistle's Academy, then was removed and again educated at home until the age of 14, when her education ended with the declaration of World War I. She, her mother and older sister cared for wounded soldiers at Glamis, requisitioned as a military hospital. She mixed comfortably with people from all walks of life, an experience that was to stand her in good stead during public life. She also faced tragedy: in 1915 her elder brother Fergus was killed at the Battle of Loos.

With the end of the war Elizabeth was introduced into Royal circles and pursued by numerous suitors. She eventually accepted the hand of Prince Albert - 'Bertie' - and they were married on April 26 1923. For 14 years the couple lived happily yet quietly together as Duke and Duchess of York, rarely called upon to perform public duties. They had two daughters: Princess Elizabeth in 1926 (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret in 1930.

In 1937 Albert's brother, King Edward VIII, unexpectedly abdicated to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson. Albert succeeded Edward as his natural heir. He was crowned George VI in Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937.

Elizabeth never forgave her brother-in-law or Mrs Simpson, and was instrumental in securing their exile from Britain. She and Albert had never wanted to be monarchs, and George VI was a shy man unprepared for public office.

During World War II Elizabeth earned public affection by remaining in London during the Blitz and visiting devastated areas to comfort people. In 1952 her husband died suddenly of a stroke. Her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, ascended the throne.

In her widowhood the Queen Mother had no official role, but nonetheless played a significant part in representing her family and her country. She was a lifelong confidante to Prince Charles, whom she adored. She was a keen and successful horse breeder and enjoyed fishing. She was loved and admired for her sense of fun and her boundless energy.

The Queen Mother died on 30 March 2002 at the age of 101.

References:
Queen Mother web site http://www.queenmother.org

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