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.
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.”
Last week the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook a brief tour of Italy, covering primarily Florence with brief stops in Rome and the Holy See. While there, Charles as able to delve into several of his passion projects, sustainable agriculture and support for vulnerable youths to name two. He was also able to tour programs that highlighted his long-held interest in the arts, classical music and history, three pursuits that he has not only always cultivated, but that he has seen as overlapping.
Charles is the definition of a “big picture” thinker, as we might put it today. He thinks unbelievably broadly and seeks to make connections between what others might consider disparate thoughts or fields. To him, there is always a point of intersection; there is always a broader purpose. Some of us (myself included) like to be able to see the forest through the trees; Charles likes to put everything in the context of nothing short of the world.
Queen Elizabeth famously called 1992 her “annus horribilis,” but that was before she lived through 2002 which saw the passing of both her mother and her sister in short order. Fifteen years ago today the Palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth (née Bowes-Lyon), wife of King George VI, known more commonly as the Queen Mother.
The official statement read:
“The Queen, with the greatest sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately: her beloved mother, Queen Elizabeth, died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Members of the royal family have been informed.
“Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had become increasingly frail in recent weeks following her bad cough and chest infection over Christmas.
“Her condition deteriorated this morning and her doctors were called. Queen Elizabeth died peacefully in her sleep at 3.15 this afternoon at Royal Lodge. The Queen was at her mother’s bedside.”
On July 9, 1936 King Edward VIII hosted his second official dinner at his residence, Fort Belvedere. In attendance were his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of York, Winston Churchill, and his long-time “companion,” Mrs. Wallis Simpson sans her husband, Mr. Ernest Simpson. The event was published in the Court Circular, which caused a bit of a stir because it made it appear as though, by socializing with them, the Yorks were condoning Edward’s relationship with Wallis.
On January 21, 1936, this happened. Now, I only recently found this out, having given it literally no amount of thought, but monarchs don’t watch the formal proclamation of their accession. In Edward’s case, he not only did it, but he did it publicly from a window in St. James’s Palace next to none other than his long-time, still-married companion, Wallis Simpson. #Scandal. Well, sort of.
Edward’s father, George V, died on January 20 at Sandringham House in Norfolk after a 25-year reign. Edward was 43, unmarried, childless and had, in certain circles, a reputation for being a bit of playboy, particularly if the women in question were married.
At the time that he became king, his relationship with Wallis Simpson wasn’t well-known to the public – thus, seeing them together wouldn’t raise alarm bells for most people. But it certainly did for those who knew who Wallis was, particularly members of Edward’s government, his family and his courtiers. As Edward was about to find out, what had been tolerated for the throne’s heir, would emphatically not be for its king.