The Queen Mother
Some mystery still surrounds exactly where Elizabeth was born, but we know she was not born at Glamis as is sometimes mistakenly assumed. It was long thought she was born at St. Paul’s Walden Bury, but is now believed that she was born in London, perhaps at the family’s town house. Elizabeth was the ninth of ten children. The first born, Violet Hyacinth, whom the Queen Mother never knew, had died tragically in 1893 of a heart problem caused by diphtheria. She was aged eleven. When Elizabeth arrived on 4th August 1900 the ages of the other children, Mary, Patrick, Jock, Alexander, Fergus, Rose and Michael spanned from seventeen down to seven years. Her brother Patrick, as eldest son, would later become the 15th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
When Elizabeth was two, her mother surprised everyone by producing David, her tenth and last child. Elizabeth and David were nicknamed ‘my two Benjamin’s’ – Benjamin being the name of the youngest son of Jacob in the bible. David soon became Elizabeth’s inseparable childhood companion and they did everything together as if they were twins. When Elizabeth was four her grandfather, the 13th Earl, died and her father inherited the Earldom, and with it, Glamis Castle. Elizabeth was now ‘Lady Elizabeth’ and the family thereafter divided their time between Glamis, St. Paul’s Walden Bury and Streatlam Castle in County Durham.
Elizabeth and David were full of pranks and mischief. Pouring ‘boiling oil’, which was actually icy water, from the ramparts on arriving guests was one such prank. Another was the placing of a football under the wheels of the family motorcar so that it would explode and frighten the chauffeur.
Lady Elizabeth celebrated her 14th birthday on August 4th 1914 and en route to the birthday treat - a vaudeville show in London- the streets suddenly filled with people. The crowds were cheering and waving flags. Then, at the end of the show, the theatre manager came onto the stage to announce that war had been declared on Germany that very evening. Soon after, Lady Elizabeth, her mother and her sister Rose, returned to Glamis where the castle was converted to a convalescent home for wounded soldiers.
When the first casualties arrived Elizabeth found herself immersed in their care and welfare. This was to be her role throughout the war but it was one in which she excelled. Her kindness won her the hearts of many of the soldiers who passed through Glamis. On 16th September 1916 two soldiers discovered a fire in a room under the castle roof. As they ran to raise the alarm, the first person they came across was Lady Elizabeth who showed great presence of mind and immediately telephoned both the local and Dundee fire brigades. She then marshalled everyone to fight the fire, organising a chain to convey buckets of water from the river. Later, with the fire raging above them, she organised the removal of the valuables out onto the Lawn. In 1918 the armistice signalled the end of the war and the end of an era. Once the last soldier had left Glamis in 1919 Lady Elizabeth was launched into the high society of the day at her coming out party.
Whilst at a ball in London, Elizabeth caught the eye of the Prince once again when he saw her dancing with his equerry James Stuart.
Prince Albert later confided to Lady Airlie that he had fallen in love that very evening, but he did not realise it until some time later. ‘Bertie’ proposed to Elizabeth in the spring of 1921 when she was twenty and he was twenty-five. When she refused him, he was disconsolate although they did continue to see each other. A further proposal followed, and then on 5th January 1923 the Daily News headlined ‘Scottish bride for the Prince of Wales’ – but the tabloid had got it wrong. It was not the Prince of Wales but the Duke of York who was wooing Elizabeth. Bertie was furious. Elizabeth spent some unhappy and embarrassed weekends staying with friends. A few days later, Bertie proposed again and this time was accepted. The telegraph he sent to his parents said simply ‘Alright - Bertie.’ The court circular of 13th January 1923 announced ‘It is with the greatest pleasure that the King and Queen announce the betrothal of their beloved son the Duke of York to the Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon’. Sir Henry Chatham wrote in his diary ‘there is not a man in England who does not envy him’.
The royal wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 26th April 1923, the first to be held there since 1382. The royal couple spent some of their honeymoon at Glamis where Elizabeth contracted whooping cough which was not, she later commented, ‘a very romantic disease.’ She soon settled into her new life and gave her husband the confidence and support he needed in the events which were soon to engulf them and bring him unexpectedly to the throne and she to the position of Queen Consort. On 21st April 1926, she gave birth, in London, to their first child, Princess Elizabeth, our present Queen. Then, on a stormy August night at Glamis in 1930, Princess Margaret was born - the first royal baby born in Scotland since the year 1600.
In 1936 King George V died and Bertie’s older brother David became King Edward VIII. Later that same year the King abdicated in favour of his brother Bertie who accepted the burden of duty as King George VI. Then, and through the long, dark days of the Second World war the Queen, affectionately known as ‘the little Scots lass from Glamis’ was to prove her worth. She more than fulfilled her mother’s maxim that ‘duty is the rent you pay for life.’