The Roosevelts and the Royals by Will Swift
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About King George VI

queen elizabeth the queen mother
QUEEN ELIZABETH, THE QUEEN MOTHER

Born August 4, 1900

Died March 30, 2002

Married Prince Albert of Great Britain April 26, 1923

Children: Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret

Elizabeth was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, in London, just a few months before Queen Victoria’s long reign ended. She grew up in idyllic circumstances, surrounded with what she would call "fun, kindness and a marvelous sense of security," as the scion of an ancient but down-to-earth Scottish noble family. When she was four, her parents became the fourteenth Earl and Countess of Strathmore, inheriting fifty thousand acres, an annual income of five million pounds, an ironworks, and a staff of over a hundred at their estates and their London home. In her wide-ranging interests and her vitality, the girl took after her talented and supremely competent mother, who painted, created spectacular Italian gardens, played the piano, and entertained magnificently, all while rearing ten children. Like her mother, Elizabeth had the gift of vivacious attentiveness, making each person feel as if he or she was the only person in the room.

During the First World War, her family’s ancestral castle, Glamis, was turned into a convalescence hospital for soldiers. Elizabeth spent her time knitting, tending wounded soldiers and looking after her mother, who mourned one son who was killed in action and another who was a prisoner of war. After fire broke out in the castle’s central tower in September 1916, The Dundee Courier, proclaimed Lady Elizabeth a "veritable heroine" for her fast-thinking action in saving the castle.

Elizabeth first met Prince Albert at a tea party when she was five years old. They met again at a dance in the summer of 1920. The prince, now Duke of York, courted Elizabeth for two years before she agreed to marry him. She was the first commoner to wed an heir to the throne since the 17th century. After their April 1923 wedding, they did charitable work, represented the king on tours of Africa in 1925, and Australia in 1927, and were popular with the British public. The late 1920s and the early 1930s were an idyllic period for the happily married couple and their two daughters. The death of King George V in January 1936 and the abdication of Prince Albert’s older brother, King Edward VIII in December of that year brought a sudden halt to their comfortable domestic life. All during 1936 the Duke and Duchess of York had watched in mounting horror as the king continued an affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson and ignored many of his monarchical duties. When the king decided he could not reign without Wallis at his side, the shy and stammering Prince Albert was forced to take on a role he never wanted and for which he felt ill-equipped.

Queen Elizabeth was crowned with her husband King George VI on May 12, 1937 and devoted herself to strengthening his self-confidence and restoring the wholesome reputation and popularity of the monarchy. She scored a sartorial triumph during the royal state visit to Paris in the summer of 1938, and won over isolationist Americans and skeptical Canadians with her charming democratic manner during a month-long visit to both countries. In Washington DC and Hyde Park she and the king began a friendship with the Roosevelts that would sustain them during the difficult years ahead. From September 1939 until April 1945 she rallied her people to heroism in the fight against the Axis powers during the Second World War. Showing great courage, she refused to leave London during the Blitz. When Buckingham Palace was bombed and she narrowly averted serious injury, she said, "I am glad we have been bombed….it makes me feel like I can look the [heavily bombed] East End in the face." She spent the war crisscrossing the country, visiting the troops, and providing comfort and compassion to subjects who had lost their homes or their relatives in the bombing.

After the war ended in 1945, she supported her ailing husband, his health ruined by the strain of war, as they faced the new post-war challenges of socialism and the decline of the British Empire. When the king was diagnosed with cancer in 1951, the doctors told her; she bore the news alone. After his early death in February 1952, her daughter ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. The newly styled Queen Mother was devastated by her husband’s death and spent a year in deep mourning. When she was invited to visit the United States in 1954, she asked, "Who would be interested in the middle-aged widow of a king?" Nonetheless, she visited America alone, beginning thirty-five years serving as an international ambassador for Britain, and serving as the link between many of the disparate countries of the Commonwealth. She also served as a chancellor of the University of Southern Rhodesia and the University of London, and became the patron or president of over 300 charitable and artistic organizations. She was an avid lover of the arts and a passionate racehorse owner.

Britain celebrated her 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays with big celebrations in London. She died in March 2002 in her 102nd year. She came to represent the stability, and enduring spirit of Great Britain.


Historian John Grigg said that her "sympathetic and cozy way of talking to individuals made her visits to blitzed streets and towns [during World War II] so memorable that they have passed into legend."

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FOR MORE ON THE QUEEN MOTHER AND THE BRITISH
ROYAL FAMILY, PLEASE VISIT:

The Offical Web Site of the British Monarchy

BBC NEWS: Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother: 1900-2002
Royalty.nu - Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
The Queen Mother - Memorial Tribute - www.QueenMother.org



The Roosevelts and the Royals
Franklin and Eleanor, The King and Queen of England, and the Friendship that Changed History

by Will Swift
John Wiley & Sons: June 2004; ISBN: 0-471-45962-3; Hardcover; 384 pages
Now available at Amazon, BN.com, or your local bookstore



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