LONDON, March 30: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who has died aged 101 on Saturday, never forgave the king who forced her shy, stuttering husband George onto the British throne.
She also maintained a vendetta against American divorcee Wallis Simpson, for whom King Edward VIII, her husband’s elder brother, gave up the crown in the 1936 abdication crisis.
After only a few months as king following the death of his father George V, Edward shocked his family and the nation by insisting he would marry Simpson, who as a divorcee was barred from becoming queen by royal tradition and public sentiment.
A reluctant Elizabeth and her self-effacing husband George were crowned in 1937, the year the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as they became known after the abdication, were married.
King George VI assumed a royal role his queen felt he was never strong enough to bear and she came to blame Edward for her husband’s early death at the age of 56.
“The queen’s attitude to the Windsors bordered on a vendetta,” said the Queen Mother’s biographer, Ingrid Seward.
Elizabeth backed her husband’s refusal to allow Simpson to take the title “Her Royal Highness”, insisting that the thrice-married American remain a duchess.
And when the Duke of Windsor was sent to be Governor of the out-of-the-way Bahamas during World War Two, the queen had already sent telegrams to officials in Nassau, telling them not to bow or call Simpson “Your Royal Highness.”
On becoming queen at the age of 36, Elizabeth called her role an “intolerable honour”, but proceeded to make an excellent job of it, becoming a focal point for British wartime defiance of the Nazis and remodelling the troubled monarchy as a popular model of family life.
But she told her grandson, Prince Charles, that she could never forgive Edward for his selfish abdication, “knowing the strain that burdens of sovereignty would put on her husband”, Charles’ authorised biography said.
The “queen mum” owed much of her reputation for rescuing the House of Windsor to the hard work she put into making her retiring husband George a successful monarch.
But he was dogged by ill-health, suffering from arteriosclerosis and lung cancer. He wore brown make-up to disguise his sickly pallor.
Edward, witty and urbane unlike his reserved, stammering brother, and Simpson went to live in exile in Paris. He died in 1972 — outliving his brother George by 20 years — while Simpson lived on until 1986.
SWEEPING CHANGES: The Queen Mother outlived the 20th century and witnessed sweeping changes knocking at the monarchy’s door.
She was born into an imperial Britain in 1900 when Queen Victoria still reigned.
She steered the monarchy through difficult years of war, crisis and change, as queen consort for 16 years until 1952 and later as royal matriarch.
The following is a chronology of the main events in the life of the woman popularly known as “the Queen Mum”.
1900, Aug 4 - Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon is born into Scottish nobility, a child of Victorian Britain and the youngest of nine children of the 14th Earl of Strathmore. She is brought up in a strict but happy family.
1901 - Queen Victoria dies, ending the longest reign in British history, and is succeeded by her son Edward VII.
1914, Aug 4 - Britain goes to war with Germany at 11 p.m. on Elizabeth’s 14th birthday.
1923, April 26 - Lady Elizabeth becomes the first commoner to marry a king’s son for centuries when she weds Victoria’s great grandson, the Duke of York, second son of George V, in a high-society wedding. She has no thoughts of becoming queen, as her husband’s elder brother Edward is heir apparent.
The Times complains on the wedding day that no one knows anything about this new royal — “as of necessity they know very little about well-bred young ladies who live quietly at home”.
But fate is to make her an international figure.
1926, April 21 - The couple have a daughter, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Unknown to her and her parents, the princess is to become Queen Elizabeth II.
1930, August 21 - The couple have a second daughter, Princess Margaret Rose.
1936 - King George V dies and is succeeded by his heir Edward VIII. But Elizabeth’s life, and British history, are changed overnight when Edward renounces the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson in the Abdication Crisis.—Reuters