Britain's Queen Mother Dead at 101

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, with their governess, were dispatched to the relative safety of Windsor Castle. Queen Elizabeth and her husband remained at Buckingham Palace. When the place was bombed during the Blitz, the queen said stoutly that she was glad to be enduring some of what so many Londoners were suffering during the Luftwaffe's barrage. "I feel I can look the East End in the face," she said.

She made it a point to visit bombed-out areas of the city, chatting and condoling with displaced residents. She always made it a point to dress in her favorite pastels, like blue, dusty pink and lilac, so that she could be easily spotted by the people. Her "uniform" also included big hats with a turned-up brim designed to reveal the face.

On Victory Europe Day in 1945, the king and queen, their daughters and Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, waving to the hundreds of thousands of cheering people celebrating the end of the war.


The stress of the war and his smoking habit had left the king's health seriously impaired. Nevertheless, the royal family made a tour of South Africa in 1947. During their visit, the queen mistakenly thought a man frantically chasing the royal car was an assassin aiming for the king. She beat him mercilessly on the head with her umbrella before police grabbed the man, who, it turned out, had been trying to present Princess Elizabeth with a 10-shilling note as a birthday gift.

The year 1947 also spelled the end of the British Empire. When India became independent on Aug. 15, George VI and Elizabeth lost their titles as emperor and empress of India.

The king and queen became grandparents in 1948, when the elder daughter, Elizabeth, who had married Philip Mountbatten, the former Prince Philip of Greece, gave birth to Prince Charles. Charles adored his grandmother, who became his confidante and staunch supporter.

On Feb. 6, 1952, the king died. Princess Elizabeth was now Queen Elizabeth II. Her mother had, in one blow, lost her husband and her own No. 1 position.

Now known as the Queen Mother, the dowager moved from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House. She remained somewhat on the sidelines as her younger daughter, Princess Margaret, became embroiled in a doomed romance with the late king's aide, Group Capt. Peter Townsend. Townsend was a commoner, and, far worse, he was divorced. Margaret begged her sister for permission to marry him; finally, faced with the choice of giving up all her royal privileges or marrying the man she loved, Margaret gave him up.

The Queen Mother, meanwhile, continued her public engagements and enjoyed her role as grandmother. She became a great-grandmother in 1977, when Princess Anne gave birth to Peter Phillips.

As she grew older, the Queen Mother remained very active. She made more than 40 official visits abroad after the death of her husband, and was patron or president of some 350 organizations. She was commandant in chief of each of the army and air force women's services and for women in the Royal Navy.

In her 90th year, the Queen Mother carried out 118 public engagements around the country. In 1995, she officially opened the Victory in Europe 50th anniversary commemorations in London, appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her daughters, as they had in 1945.

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