21 April 2011

A New Princess is Born

Spring had not yet arrived on that drizzly, gray April morning in London. In a five-story Mayfair townhouse, the King’s only daughter-in-law was nestled in the familiar surroundings of her parents’ home. For the last three years, she and her husband had been living a nomadic existence migrating from one relative’s house to another waiting for the royal family to find them a comfortable, modern home with simple amenities like sufficient plumbing.

The 26-year-old Duchess of York may have been thinking about finding a home of her own. As she ran her hand over her swollen belly, her thoughts were almost certainly on the family she was starting with her beloved husband, Bertie. Soon, her pangs began to increase and she retired to a specially prepared room with three doctors to look after her.

As the day progressed, reporters arrived at 17 Bruton Street. They were escorted to another room where they were treated as guests while they awaited news of this interesting but not very important birth.

After all, this child would only be third in line after the 31-year-old Prince of Wales (who would certainly marry and begin a family) and his younger brother the Duke of York. This baby would likely spend its life moving further and further down the line.

This child wasn’t even the first grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Their daughter, the Princess Royal, had already presented them with two grandsons.

Nevertheless, throughout the day, people started gathering outside of the elegant townhouse of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. Anticipation was building on the street, but inside things were not developing smoothly. The tiny royal highness was not positioning properly and the petite duchess was facing a long struggle.

As the sun set and darkness engulfed the house, the anxious father was putting the Earl’s rugs through a real workout and burning his way through cigarette after cigarette. Despite his nervousness and his well-documented stammer, he still took time to pop in to visit with the reporters and the official government representative. In the duchess’s room, the doctors finally determined that the breech baby would not turn around. The only answer for both mother and child was caesarean section.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Finally, at 2:40 a.m. on April 21, 1926, a little princess entered the world. At four a.m., the king and queen were awakened with the happy news. That afternoon they visited their first granddaughter and the stodgy, middle-aged Queen Mary immediately fell in love with her. “Saw the baby, who is a little darling,” she gushed in her diary, marking the beginning of a close and loving relationship between the queen and the granddaughter who would grow to resemble her in appearance and temperament.

The Duke of York consulted the king about the baby’s name, as royal tradition required. Elizabeth, the duke proposed in honor of his darling wife. Alexandra in honor of the his grandmother, the gorgeous Danish princess who became a beloved British queen and who had died only a few months earlier. And, Mary after the queen. The king noted that the name Victoria was not included—“I quite approve…He says nothing about Victoria. I hardly think that necessary,” George wrote.

And so, this little girl became one of the first descendants of Queen Victoria who was not named for the venerable old queen or her revered consort Prince Albert. But, this little girl was destined for a life as some nobleman’s wife living privately in the country, traveling to London for the season, getting dressed up for the occasional royal event, but growing less and less interesting to the reporters seated in her grandparents’ parlor and the people gathered in the rain-drenched street. By the time she turned 85 in the unimaginably far-off 21st century, the event would probably rate little public comment at all.

Funny how a person’s life can take an unexpected turn. And, while Queen Elizabeth II may not have been born to inherit the throne, few would argue that she was destined to be queen.


  1. Hi, this was a nice commentary on the Queen's birth. I actually knew nothing about it, having studied earlier royals, such as Charlotte of Wales, like you, and newer ones, such as Diana. So for me, it was a delightful article. I'm glad she is not washing their feet. Jesus did that to teach his bickering apostles a lesson: that they should not be arguing over which of them was greater, as they were to minister, not outrank each other. It was not meant to set a tradition. What he did tell them to do until his arrival was to proclaim his death.