BBC News UK Edition
    You are in: UK  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 18:12 GMT
Profile: Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
The abdication changed Elizabeth's life forever

As the Public Record Office releases more documents concerning the abdication of King Edward VIII, BBC News Online looks at the life of Queen Elizabeth - later to become Queen Mother - in her role as Queen Consort.

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon twice rejected proposals of marriage from King George V's second son Bertie because she was frightened of the restrictions that being a member of the Royal Family would place on her life.

Eventually, though, she was persuaded to accept.

But had she any inkling that she would end up as the Queen Consort, she may not have been talked into marrying. Had she not, the nature of the monarchy might have been very different.

For when Elizabeth and Bertie tied the knot in 1923, neither had any reason to believe they would become King and Queen.

King and Queen on their engagement in 1923
Elizabeth and Bertie were engaged in 1923
She was the first "commoner" to enter the Royal Family since Henry VIII's last wife.

But she wasn't exactly common. Her father was fined for failing to register her birth in time. He'd been out shooting grouse.

He was the Earl of Strathmore, an hereditary peer whose family seat was at Glamis Castle in Scotland.

The family turned Glamis into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during World War I and the young Elizabeth would help nurse them.

Her own brother, Fergus, died at the Battle of Loos.

With the war over, Elizabeth threw herself into London's social scene.

She loved partying and gained a reputation as a good dancer. Her bonhomie and gregariousness never left her; neither did some of the values of the Edwardian age in which she was steeped.


Once married, the Duke and Duchess of York, as they became, led relatively sedentary lives with their two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, until the abdication turned everything upside down.

As a four year-old with brother David
As a four year-old with brother David
When her brother-in-law David, now the uncrowned Edward VIII, was deliberating between Mrs Simpson and the throne, Elizabeth personally pleaded with him to put the nation before love.

She was concerned that her husband was not temperamentally suited to be King.

Bertie was notoriously shy and diffident, and had a pronounced stammer.

When Edward chose Mrs Simpson, Bertie broke down and "sobbed like a child".

Elizabeth berated Edward for his "shameful dereliction of duty".

She never forgave Edward and Mrs Simpson who became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after the abdication.

In her view, Edward had let the monarchy down. Her sense of duty, imbued in her from an early age, was offended.


Elizabeth, who was deeply religious, was also offended by the thought of Edward marrying a divorcee.

She regarded Mrs Simpson as a sleazy social climber whom she famously referred to in a letter as "the lowest of the low".

The King and Queen in the 1950s
Elizabeth never forgave the Duchess of Windsor
Elizabeth maintained a life-long feud with the Duchess of Windsor, engineering a wholesale clear-out of her friends from Court and ensuring that the duchess was denied the title of Her Royal Highness.

At the heart of her animosity was her firm belief that Wallis's behaviour had placed an intolerable strain upon her husband, contributing to his early death at 56.

Even at the Duke of Windsor's funeral in 1972, Elizabeth remained stony-faced, though the two did exchange words briefly.

After the Coronation, Elizabeth took steps for her husband to attend a speech therapist to help cure his stammer, a radical move at the time.

With her able support, he rose to the occasion. The standing of the monarchy, dented badly by the upheavals of the abdication, was restored during World War II.


By refusing to leave the country, and by repeatedly visiting the bombed out areas of London and elsewhere during the Blitz, the royal couple were a huge boost to morale.

Widowed at 51, Elizabeth continued to carry out public duties in support of her daughter, the current Queen, for another half a century.

She took pleasure in going out and meeting the people, and gave the monarchy a family image that still holds today.

She was also a great traditionalist who held back plans to modernise the monarchy.

But, for many people, she embodied the great British virtues of family and dignity, laced with the odd eccentricity and an endearing sense of humour.

Key stories






Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |