Sunday, September 28, 2008

Women of Style & Substance-The Queen Mother

Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon even from a young age was a young lady who had been tempered with a steely personality. This came to the fore during the First World War when her family home Glamis Castle was used to nurse injured soldiers back to health. This is also where Lady Elizabeth learnt to mix with all kinds of people from all levels of society, but with great instinct Lady Elizabeth learnt to listen to others and to give them her entire attention. This would hold her in good stead when it came to her role later in life.

During this time Lady Elizabeth ran errands for these wounded men, she did simple tasks such as rolling their cigarettes for them and writing to their families back home, as well as reading to them. Lady Elizabeth did all this when she was still a young teenager.

With the death of her eldest brother, it was left to this young girl to run Glamis Castle when her mother suffered a nervous breakdown, she did this with her customary common sense and grace. Even when the castle nearly burnt down Lady Elizabeth led the way in saving her family home from destruction.

When this young woman first met Prince Albert, she was not impressed though he fell instantly in love with this vibrant yet steely woman. In fact Lady Elizabeth's heart lay with another, James Stuart but upon learning of the young Princes love James Stuart stepped out of the frame, allowing Prince Albert the chance to win the hand of this fair maiden. He did so after she had refused him twice.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon did not love her husband, she placed duty to one's country above her own preferences. Though she did not love The Duke of York she came to love and respect him during their life together.

Personal happiness came to them both with the birth of their daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, they had become 'we happy four.'

But their personal happiness would be disturbed with the arrival of Mrs. Simpson and her friendship with The Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales would do the exact opposite of the young Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, he put his personal happiness over and above his duty to his country.

The young Duchess of York could not comprehend such selfishness and never forgave them for their dereliction of duty. This exposed her own husband to the glare of the media and Courtiers, some of whom had grave misgivings about the suitability of the Duke of York to become King due to his stutter.

The Duchess of York accompanied her husband to a speech therapist and in every possible way she encouraged and uplifted him, she was in essense his rock, and she would remain so throughout his short life. The Duchess gave her husband the one thing he had always lacked, a stable and loving home environment, where he could leave the troubles of the world behind him and find comfort and support within his family home.

As King and Queen they led the country during the terrible days of the Second World War. The Queen encouraged women into the work force and to keep the home fires burning. But she was also her husbands strongest advocate and supporter. She did not run when the bombs dropped as she famously said when asked about evacuating to Canada, "the children will not leave without me, I will not leave without the King and the King will never leave!"

It was this Queen who began what became known and accepted as the 'Royal walkabout.' The days were grave for England as bombs rained down on the populace and Hitler at that time seemed unstoppable. It did not faze Queen Elizabeth, and she met the challenges that faced her and her husband with steely determination.

The Queen dressed in her finest clothes and pearls when she visited those who had been bombed as she said when questioned about her style of dressing, "if they come to see me they would dress in their finest clothes why would I do less?" During these terrifying years The Queen displayed great grace under pressure and shored up her insecure husband as he carried out his Royal duties.

The Queen though was a woman of great strength of character and it was at her insistance that The Duke and Duchess of Windsor be sent overseas during these dark days for England. It was also at the Queen's insistance that Wallis, The Duchess of Windsor would be deprived of the title H.R.H. throughout her life.

Later in life the Queen Mother was perceived by the media as a rather sugary nature, this portrayal does a disservice to her true personality and hides the strength of her character.

The Queen Mother throughout her long life believed in service and had no time for those who put self above duty. This approach brought her into conflict with the late Princess Diana, neither woman understood the other.

But throughout her life The Queen Mother avoided familial confrontations though she tacitly supported her grandson Prince Charles throughout his affair with Mrs Parker Bowles.

In the Queen Mother we see a woman of quiet steel, of inner strength and of service. A woman who followed her own style which became uniquely her own. A woman with the nice smile which hid the toughness of her character and a woman who always remained true to her country and true to herself.

written by Marie