The Queen Mother is a figure who we probably haven’t spent enough time on. In the past she’s primarily popped up in relation to the Abdication Crisis, or in her capacity as George VI’s wife or Elizabeth II’s mother, but I’ve been remiss in covering her on her own, save a post from last year focused on her courtship with her future husband. Today we’re going to take a look at her upbringing and the years preceding her marriage.
Happy 92nd Birthday to Queen Elizabeth! Later today the Royal Family will all descend on Royal Albert Hall for a concert to mark the occasion and conclude the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), but in the meantime let’s take a look back at April 21, 1926 when HRH Princess Elizabeth was born to the then-Duke and Duchess of York.
Perhaps The Crown’s second season’s most memorable episode was that which showed the drama surrounding Prince Charles beginning boarding school in Scotland in 1962. The show doesn’t offer a merry depiction of Gordonstoun, instead offering Charles’s attendance there as a paternal failure stemming from Prince Philip’s own psychological wounds. The question as to whether the episode is “true” has prompted many a headline in the weeks since it aired, but strictly in regards to the issue of Prince Charles at the school, I think that’s more difficult to answer than a simple “yes” or “no.” There were inaccuracies in the episode. There was also some over-dramatization. But it did strike on something real.
Eighty-one years ago today King Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication to step down from the throne, an act witnessed by his three younger brothers. On December 10, 1936, Edward had been on the throne for less than 11 months following the death of his father, George V, and his time in the top job had been a series of actions that lost him the trust of much of his government, horrified his family and broken any number of traditions that had once been taken for granted. His last task would come the next day when he issued royal assent for the declaration of abdication.
Today marks 70 years of marriage for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Together they have evolved from a young couple supporting Elizabeth’s father, George VI, in post-war Britain to the heads of the British Royal Family as it rolls into the 21st century. From four children, born between 1948 and 1964, they’ve amassed eight grandchildren, five (soon to be six) great-grandchildren and lived through three of their children’s divorces (and two of their remarriages.) It’s hard sometimes to reconcile the images of the two of them as 20-somethings in the 1940s with the grandparent figures they’ve become – just as it’s hard to reconcile the RF of the mid-20th century with how it looks and behaves today – but they are the common denominators.
Fun fact: It took George VI three tries to get the Queen Mother to accept his marriage proposal. Decades before the Queen Mother became synonymous with royal duty and the House of Windsor’s matriarch, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was a 20-something and unsure about a life in the spotlight.
Elizabeth first met the future king when he was still Prince Albert, Duke of York in June 1920. They met at a dinner party in London also attended by Queen Mary, Princess Mary and Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester on Derby Night, while George V hosted a lavish celebratory supper at Buckingham Palace. Later that evening, a ball was held with the same party and Albert went up to fellow attendee James Stuart and asked, “Who was that lovely girl you were talking to? Introduce me to her.”
Next month marks the 70th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh and, as such, we’ll cover all that brought about the original 1947 pairing. But ahead of that I thought it was fitting that there was a post on Prince Philip’s parents, particularly since his origin story isn’t particularly well-known. His lineage is unique in the context of the British Royal Family and his entry into the House of Windsor was perhaps the most dramatic in its history, quite a bit of which had to do with his parents and siblings.
So, who were they? His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and his mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg. A couple years ago a guest at Buckingham Palace remarked that, like Philip, they were also Greek, to which he responded that he actually didn’t have a drop of Greek blood. That started a question in the papers as to whether that was true and the answer is, well yes, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that given the styling of his father’s name.