Queen Mother at 100
CBC Television News
It's no wonder
they call Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, an icon
of 20th century Britain. She participated in some of the key
events of modern British history. She was there when King
Edward VIII abdicated and when the Germans blitzed London
during the Second World War.
She witnessed the premature death of her husband
King George VI and the coronation of her daughter Queen Elizabeth
II. She has also watched a series of royal marriage meltdowns
starting with her daughter Princess Margaret's divorce from
Lord Snowden and continuing with the divorces of three of
the Queen's four children. The Queen Mother was on hand to
comfort Prince Charles and his sons after the tragic death
of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was born into a very different
world on August 4, 1900. Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
Elizabeth was the ninth child of the Earl and Countess of
Strathmore and spent a happy childhood moving between stately
homes in England and Glamis Castle in Scotland, once the home
of Macbeth. A biographer describes her as "the Lady Diana
Spencer of her day." She was pretty, shy and very natural.
In spite of her
privileged, aristocratic upbringing she was able
to reach out and relate to people from all backgrounds. She
was a strong character with a well developed sense of duty.
It took Albert, the Duke of York, three years to persuade
Elizabeth to marry him. She didn't want to be part of the
Royal Family and twice turned down proposals of the second
son of King George V. When they did marry on August 26th,
1923, she was the first commoner to wed the second in line
to the throne since the time of King James II in the 17th
century. Elizabeth called her husband "Bertie" and helped
him to overcome an almost pathological shyness. She gave him
confidence and helped control a serious stutter by sending
him to the best available speech therapist.
When the Duke of York's older brother, King
Edward VIII abdicated on December 10th, 1936, after just 327
days on the throne, "Bertie" became King George VI and his
"Little Duchess", Queen Elizabeth. She never forgave her brother-in-law
for renouncing the throne in order to marry twice divorced
American Wallis Simpson. The former King was granted the title
Duke of Windsor. His wife became the Duchess of Windsor but
she was denied the title "Her Royal Highness." Queen Elizabeth
referred to her as "that woman."
|Aug. 4, 1999
reports for CBC TV on the Queen Mother's 99th birthday
|June 27, 2000
reports on the start of birthday activities marking
set out to re-establish public faith in the monarchy. She
was determined to make it more relevant to the public. She
promoted the family monarchy, allowing cameras to record scenes
of the King and Queen with their children, Princess Elizabeth
and Princess Margaret. In 1939 she made history with the first
ever royal walkabout in Ottawa, chatting to First World War
veterans at the unveiling of the war memorial in Parliament
She could have returned
to live in Canada during the Second World War with her daughters,
but Queen Elizabeth stayed in London. She and King George
insisted upon remaining in Buckingham Palace during the blitz
and made regular visits to bombed out areas in London's East
End. Buckingham Palace received several direct hits. The Queen
Mother said that narrowly escaping death in the palace meant
she could "now look the East End in the face." She got a revolver
and practised hitting targets in the palace courtyard. She
did so much to keep up morale that Hitler called her "the
most dangerous woman in Europe." Her courage helped to hold
King and country together.
King George died
of lung cancer in 1952, his Queen blamed the stress of his
job for his early death. She refused to allow the Duke of
Windsor to attend a lunch after the King's funeral. Bitter
and depressed, she withdrew from public life for several months.
After the coronation of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II,
she reinvented herself. She became Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Her dignity and grace became a trademark.
Today she still takes
on official duties and is patron or president of 300 organizations
and colonel-in-chief of eight regiments. She adores her three
corgis, Rush, Mini and Dash, and owns 50 racehorses and 200
mares. It was while she was inspecting mares in foal at her
stud farm in 1998 that she slipped and broke her hip. She
underwent a hip replacement operation for the second time.
The Queen Mother lives
in Clarence House in London. She has a staff of 50-housekeepers,
footmen, ladies' maids, cooks, gardeners and chauffeurs. She
calls them her "old cosies." She still entertains in lavish
style. Guests tell of sumptuous meals served by butlers wearing
white ties and medals. Her favourite tipple is gin and Dubonnet.
Her favourite food is scrambled eggs. She receives around
$2 million from the Civil List and the Queen supplements her
income from her private funds.
She is close to her
grandson, heir to the throne Prince Charles. She promoted
his courtship of Lady Diana Spencer. She was best friends
with Lady Diana's grandmother. In the end, the Queen Mother
feared that Princess Diana was out to destroy the monarchy.
in spite of all the image problems
the royal family has faced in recent years, the Queen Mother
has remained beyond reproach. Her ability to maintain a certain
mystique yet remain relevant to ordinary people has made her
one of the most popular royals. She has never let being a
Duchess, a Queen or a Queen Mother go to her head.
Recently the Queen
Mother visited Westminster Abbey to see how plans for her
funeral were getting on. When she was shown the candles which
will be placed on the altar around her coffin, she shook her
head. I don't like those at all, she said, "do you mind if
I bring some of my own?"
Someone asked the Queen
Mother what she was looking forward to about turning 100.
Without missing a beat she replied "receiving a telegram from
my daughter." The Queen sends everyone a telegram on their
100th birthday, even her extraordinary mother.
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