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A postage stamp from Australia circa 1950, depicting a portrait of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon

The Queen Mother: Biography

Image: chrisdorney / | Above: A postage stamp from Australia circa 1950, depicting a portrait of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’s parents moved in royal circles and, as a girl, Elizabeth played with the children of British king George V. Eventually Elizabeth's father became the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, bringing the family an official title.

The Honourable Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born on 4 August 1900. She was the fourth daughter of Lord Glamis, later the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Clyde. She was educated at home and by the age of ten was fluent in French.

During WWI, her family home became a hospital for war wounded and while Elizabeth was too young to be a nurse, she assisted with welfare work. In 1915, her brother Fergus was killed at the Battle of Loos.

As a child, she played with the children of King George V and Queen Mary, with Elizabeth being the bridesmaid at Princess Mary's wedding in 1922.

When she was 21, George V's second son, Prince Albert, asked her to marry him, but she turned him down. Elizabeth refused the prince on three further occasions, but in January 1923 she consented. The marriage took place in Westminster Abbey on 23 April that year.

Elizabeth was now the Duchess of York. She and Albert had two daughters, Elizabeth, who was born on 21 April 1926, and Margaret Rose born on 21 August 1930.

George V died in January 1936 and his eldest son ascended the throne as Edward VIII, but shocked the world by abdicating to be with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Suddenly, Elizabeth's husband was thrust into the role of king. He accepted the crown, taking the name George VI, and worked hard to live up to his new responsibilities, but it was never easy for him, and his wife never forgave his brother Edward and Wallis. Their coronation took place on 12 May 1937 and Elizabeth became the first British-born Queen-Consort since Tudor times.

Before WWII broke out, the royal couple made a visit to France in July 1938 and to Canada and the US in May and June 1939.

The king and queen stayed on in London during the Blitz, whilst the girls spent the war years at Windsor Castle, where they were relatively safe. Buckingham Palace was hit by bombs and rockets on nine occasions.

"I'm glad we've been bombed," Queen Elizabeth said. "It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face."

She and the king often visited bomb sites, as well as hospitals, factories and troops.

The king and queen celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1948, but the king's health began to deteriorate. Their last public appearance together was at the opening of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

He died of lung cancer in 1952. His eldest daughter became Queen Elizabeth II, and his widow was now known as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. She continued with her royal duties, which included over 40 official visits abroad including a trip to Canada in 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of her first visit there.

She was also the patron of over 350 organisations and worked as the president of the British Red Cross for many years, as well as the commandant-in-chief of the nursing division of the St John's Ambulance Brigade.

The Queen Mother also received honourary degrees from a number of universities and was chancellor of the University of London for 25 years until 1980.

In the summer of 2000, she attended a number of events to mark her 100th birthday, including a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on 11 July. She also received a birthday telegraph from the queen.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died in March 2002 at the age of 101.