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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 18:00 GMT
Reluctant queen's links to Wales
Queen Mother in Penarth
The Queen Mother opening a south Wales hospice in 1988
After Buckingham Palace confirms the death of the Queen Mother, BBC Wales's Nick Palit reflects on her role in a century of Welsh life.

In 1937, after the abdication a year earlier of Edward VIII, Elizabeth became queen.

It was a role she did not seek, but when she came with her king to Wales after the coronation, it was clear that the public held her in great affection.

An old news reel begins: "The opening of the National Library of Wales was the chief purpose of her majesty's visit to Aberystwyth.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
With King George VI in Aberystwyth

"As was expected, a huge crowd of loyal Welsh men and women turned out to welcome them. The capricious summer even provided a little sunshine.

"The next function took place inside Caernarfon castle. At the conclusion of the programme, their majesties walked to Queen's gate. King George and Queen Elizabeth showed themselves to the people.

"They were received with a mighty roar from thousands who gazed upwards at the smiling figures of our King and Queen."

After visits during the war, she came back to Caernarfon in 1969 as a proud grandmother to the new Prince of Wales.

The Queen Mother was 83 when she opened St. David's Hall in Cardiff.

Before revealing a commemorative plaque, she told the awaiting star-studded crowd: "I am so delighted to be in Cardiff once again and may I thank the Lord Mayor for his kind welcome.

Queen Mother in Caernarfon
Back in Wales for Prince Charles's investiture in Caernarfon

"This evening's ceremony marks the fulfilment of many years of careful planning. And it is in a way for me a family occasion, for some four years ago, it was my grandson, the Prince of Wales who laid the foundation stone of this building."

The Queen Mother came to Penarth in 1988 to open the new Marie Curie hospice and to bring comfort to the sick.

Hospice medical director Baroness Finlay of Llandaff recalled: "The overwhelming response was of being picked up emotionally by her radiant grace and I think everyone was astonished by how pretty she was in real life.

"You don't expect an older lady to be pretty but she was absolutely stunning.

"She spoke to everybody and she made everybody feel comfortable, everybody feel as if they were important, with a graciousness which I really have rarely seen in anybody, and never to the extent that we saw with her."

Every time she visited Wales, the crowds gathered to welcome the nation's favourite grandmother. And those that met her had a genuine affection for her.

Queen Mother in Penarth
Opening the Marie Curie Hospice in 1988

Norman Lloyd Edwards, Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan, said: "I suppose we shouldn't be terribly surprised in view of the great age that her majesty had attained.

"She visited Cardiff Castle to see the new George Thomas suite because she got on terribly well with Viscount Tonypandy.

"She thought he was enormous fun, and admired enormously what he had achieved during his lifetime."

Viscount Tonypandy was one of Wales's most distintinguished politicians.

A former speaker of the House of Commons, he died in 1997.

Throughout his political life, he met and formed a strong and lasting friendship with the Queen Mother, one of affection and mutual respect. Speaking in his last years, he paid this tribute to her

"The Queen Mother was unique," he said.

"No-one can take her place. When she entered the Royal family, it was a breath of fresh air.

Lord Tonypandy
Queen Mother's good friend Lord Tonypandy

"It was stuffier in those days and she brought all the breeziness of the Scots, the warmth of heart of a Celt and, because I became Speaker, I got to know her exceedingly well.

"She came five times to Speaker's House and I preached for her five times down at Windsor. I remember buying in a craft shop in Cardiff a red glass Welsh dragon, and on one occasion I gave her this.

"After my serious illness with cancer, the Queen Mother gave a lunch at Clarence House in my honour, as a sign that I was welcome back.

"And she touched me and pointed - and there was the little red glass dragon. She said 'It's not there because you're coming today. It's always there.

"We should thank God that we've known her, loved her and to know that she's left her mark upon this country. That's a privilege that few people enjoy."

BBC Wales's Nick Palit
"When she came with her King to Wales after the coronation, it was clear that the public held her in great affection."
See also:

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