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1953: Queen Mary dies peacefully after illness

Her Majesty Queen Mary, the Queen's grandmother, has died peacefully in her sleep.

A simple bulletin posted outside Marlborough House at 2315 GMT announced her death.

It said: "While sleeping peacefully, Queen Mary died at twenty minutes past ten o'clock."

The BBC interrupted the Light and Third programmes at 1125 GMT to break the news of her death.

Programmes afterwards ended, except for news and weather forecasts.


"I have with great regret to make the announcement that the Queen has died"

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Queen Mary, who was 85, had been suffering a recurrence of the gastric illness that has been troubling her for some time.

A bulletin released at Marlborough House at 1140 GMT was the first warning that her condition was causing some anxiety.

A second bulletin, framed like the first and hung on a screen of corrugated iron protecting stonework repairs to the front of the gateway, was issued at 1340 GMT.

It said: "During the past hours Queen Mary's condition has become more grave. There has been a serious weakening of the heart action which gives rise to increasing anxiety."

The third bulletin, at 1900 GMT, was brief: "Queen Mary's strength is ebbing, but Her Majesty is sleeping peacefully." The fourth and final bulletin was to announce her death.

Several members of the Royal Family called at Marlborough House throughout the day. They included the Duke of Windsor and the Princess Royal. Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived with Princess Margaret at 1646 GMT.

A small crowd began to gather as soon as the first bulletin was issued, and stayed throughout the day.

When the final notice was put up, the crowd surged forward and police struggled to keep people in an orderly line. As the news of Queen Mary's death spread through the crowd, men removed their hats, and many women were in tears.

Shortly afterwards, Queen Mary's personal standard, flying above Marlborough House, was lowered.

The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, broke the news of the Queen's death to House of Commons immediately after a vote this evening.

His voice husky with emotion, he said, "I rise to move the adjournment of the House. I have with great regret to make the announcement that the Queen has died."

The opposition leader, Clement Attlee, accepted the proposal, saying he was sure the whole House would join in the expression of sorrow.

In Context
Queen Mary was the wife of George V and mother to Edward VIII and George VI.

She was an austere and regal figure, but this made her more, rather than less, admired, and her strong sense of duty and her steadfastness through both world wars earned her an enduring affection.

This most traditional of monarchs, however, oversaw some of the biggest upheavals the Royal Family has ever seen.

The worst came when, to her strong disapproval, her son, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson.

She had six children, and outlived three of them as well as her husband, who died 17 years before her. She lived to see her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, ascend to the throne - the third of her descendants to do so - but died three months before the formal coronation.

She is buried alongside her husband in St George's Chapel, Windsor.


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