|By Applevv via Wikimedia Commons|
During World War I, four of her older brothers saw military service and one died, while the young Elizabeth stayed home and helped her mother turn Glamis into a hospital and convalescent home for wounded soldiers and sailors. Always popular for her winning smile and genuinely caring demeanor, Elizabeth earned great admiration and even inadvertently broke some hearts. Just 18 when the war ended, she entered the social whirlwind of her class and garnered several marriage proposals, including three from the King's youngest son, Prince Albert The Duke of York. Bright and confident, Elizabeth did not relish the idea of living a public life, but Bertie's quiet persistence eventually won her over and they were married in 1923. She was a great favourite of her gruff old father-in-law King George V and her reserved mother-in-law Queen Mary, quickly adapting to calling them Papa and Mama. She and Bertie soon became reliable designates of the king, representing him throughout the kingdom and in the worldwide empire. Adventurous and full of fun, she even went an extensive African holiday with Bertie before returning home to start a family.
Their first child, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, was born at her parents' London home in 1926 and Princess Margaret Rose arrived at their Scottish castle in 1930. The family of four enjoyed a rather ordinary life for their class. Mummy and Daddy did their work representing the King, while their little darlings based in their affection, moving steadily among their own home in Picadilly Square and the various royal and noble homes of their family in a pattern that continues in the royal family to this day with summers in Scotland and Christmases in Norfolk.
Their idyllic life was thrown into disarray in 1936 when King George V passed away and Bertie's older brother became the bachelor King Edward VIII. The new king was less interested in his royal duties than in marrying a woman deemed unacceptable. By the end of the year, he had abdicated, and the heavy burden of kingship fell to Bertie, who took the regnal name King George VI in honor of his father. Now, the Scottish lass who hadn't want to be a duchess was suddenly a Queen. She was an able mate for her more reticent and sometimes temperamental husband, and she always had a sunny smile that could melt the heart of the most determined Republican. Before they could even get used to their crowns, the couple and the nation were thrust into World War II and through this conflict they emerged as true leaders. Together with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, they helped guide the country through near disaster to victory.
The stress of kingship and the war took its toll on Bertie, who had never been very healthy and who was a heavy smoker. He emerged visibly aged and terribly ill. Within seven years, he had succumbed to long cancer and was succeeded by their 25-year-old daughter Elizabeth. The older Elizabeth was now a grandmother and a widow with no defined role to play. It took her some time to recover sufficiently, but she eventually found new purpose in her grandchildren, in renovating an old Scottish castle she purchased for herself (the Castle of Mey) and in supporting her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
For the 50 years of her widowhood, Elizabeth grew increasingly popular and beloved. She was truly adored as the nation's favorite Granny. When she passed away 15 years ago today, at the age of 101, it still felt like she had left us too soon.