family as Bertie. He was a shy man with a stutter and not considered to be in great health. Some of this was
attributed to a nurse who had ruled him with an over-firm
He was never groomed to be King. That role was to be
filled by his brother David who was Prince of Wales and became for a short time Edward VIII. Instead, Bertie joined the Navy and served during WWI.
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was born into an old Scottish
family. The fourth daughter of Lord Glamis, later to become Earl of Strathmore, Elizabeth was a charming and outgoing girl who made friends easily.
When Bertie met Elizabeth at a dance, he was immediately
smitten and began to court her. He proposed to her for the first time in 1921; she refused. She had no desire to make the tremendous life changes that would be required to marry into the Royal Family, even to the second son who was never
expected to become King.
Bertie didn't give up. He was encouraged by his family
who believed Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was the woman to bring Bertie out of himself and overcome some of his shyness.
He proposed again two years later and this time she
accepted. He telegraphed home to share the news, brief and to the point. "All right. Bertie."
Their fairy tale wedding took place April 26, 1923 at
Westminster Abbey. It was a large public affair but unlike recent royal weddings was not televised or broadcast on the radio. Elizabeth was attended by eight bridesmaids. The ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York. Elizabeth began a tradition, followed by future royal brides, of leaving her bridal bouquet at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Westminster Abbey.
The Duke and Duchess of York, as the couple now were
called, honeymooned in Surrey and Scotland, but suffered a short delay due to a bout of whooping cough contracted by
They settled down to a family life, happy and in love,
raising two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret. Then their lives were thrown off course with the death of George V and the subsequent abdication of Edward VIII after his short reign.
Bertie now became King George VI, taking on a role he
wasn't trained for and didn't want. He was never comfortable in the public eye and went through agonies before giving speeches trying to overcome his stutter. It took another war and the persistent presence of his wife to win over the
affections of the English people to their shy King.
Elizabeth won hearts during the trying times of the
Second World War. When advised to send the children out of the country during the bombing of Britain she replied.
"The children won't go without me, I won't leave the King and the King will never leave." She often visited parts of London that had been hit by heavy bombing and did a great deal to lift the spirits of the British people. Hitler once called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe."
George VI died in 1952 and was succeeded by his daughter,
Elizabeth II. His widow now became Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She lived nearly fifty years after the death of the man she loved, dying at the age of 101.
About her love for her husband she once said. "He was my
whole life and one can only be thankful for the utterly happy years we had together."