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Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900–2002), queen of George VI and queen mother. Perhaps the most remarkable member of the royal family in modern times, Elizabeth was born at St Paul's Waldenbury (Herts.), daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th earl of Strathmore in the Scottish peerage. The earliest title in the family was Lord Glamis (1445). Her mother was a great-granddaughter of the 3rd duke of Portland, prime minister 1783 and 1807–9. She had six brothers, one of whom was killed in the Great War, and three sisters, one of whom died before Elizabeth was born. Her childhood was extremely happy, mainly because of the high spirits of her mother: ‘fun, kindness, and a marvellous sense of security’ was her own summary. When she was 19 she met Prince Albert (duke of York and future George VI) and in 1923, after some hesitation, agreed to marry him. Their daughters Elizabeth and Margaret Rose were born in 1926 and 1930. The abdication of her brother-in-law Edward VIII in 1936 brought her husband to the throne and made her queen. During the Second World War the royal couple played a prominent role and their decision not to leave London was an important boost to national morale. George VI's death in 1952 at the age of 56 left her facing a long widowhood. She took the title Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Into advanced age she carried out numerous public duties, which she fulfilled with a grace and warmth universally acknowledged, and her 100th birthday in August 2000 was celebrated with widespread admiration. In later years, much of her time was spent at her London home of Clarence House or at the small castle of Mey in Caithness-shire. She died peacefully at Windsor on 30 March 2002.

J. A. Cannon

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