14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Duke of York, Empress of India, Glamis Castle, King George VI of the United Kingdom, Peerage of Scotland, Prince Albert, Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 to 6 February 1952 as the wife of King George VI. She was the last Empress of India from her husband’s accession as King-Emperor in 1936 until the British Raj was dissolved in August 1947. After her husband died, she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the youngest daughter and the ninth of ten children of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (later the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland), and his wife, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. Her mother was descended from British Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Governor-General of India Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was the elder brother of another prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
Wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Prince Albert, Duke of York—”Bertie” to the family—was the second son of King George V. He initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, but she turned him down, being “afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to”. When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl who had stolen her son’s heart.
She became convinced that Elizabeth was “the one girl who could make Bertie happy”, but nevertheless refused to interfere. At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert’s equerry, until he left the Prince’s service for a better-paid job in the American oil business.
In February 1922, Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Albert’s sister, Princess Mary, to Viscount Lascelles. The following month, Albert proposed again, but she refused him once more.
Eventually, in January 1923, Elizabeth agreed to marry Albert, despite her misgivings about royal life. Albert’s freedom in choosing Elizabeth, not a member of a royal family, though the daughter of a peer, was considered a gesture in favour of political modernisation; previously, princes were expected to marry princesses from other royal families. They selected a platinum engagement ring featuring a Kashmir sapphire with two diamonds adorning its sides.
They married on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on her way into the abbey, in memory of her brother Fergus.
Elizabeth became styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York. Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, the new Duchess and her husband honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey owned by the wealthy socialite and friend Margaret Greville. They then went to Scotland, where she caught “unromantic” whooping cough.
Elizabeth came to prominence in 1923 when she married the Duke of York. The couple and their daughters Elizabeth and Margaret embodied traditional ideas of family and public service. The Duchess undertook a variety of public engagements and became known for her consistently cheerful countenance.
In 1936, Elizabeth’s husband unexpectedly became king when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson.
Elizabeth then became queen consort. She accompanied her husband on diplomatic tours to France and North America before the start of the Second World War. During the war, her seemingly indomitable spirit provided moral support to the British public. After the war, her husband’s health deteriorated, and she was widowed at the age of 51. Her elder daughter, aged 25, became the new queen.
After the death of Queen Mary in 1953, Elizabeth was viewed as the matriarch of the British royal family. In her later years, she was a consistently popular member of the family, even when other members were suffering from low levels of public approval. She continued an active public life until just a few months before her death at the age of 101, which was seven weeks after the death of her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.