The second of the three-part series airs tonight on Channel 5.
The Queen Mother has been known by many names – Queen Elizabeth Queen Consort, Queen Mother Elizabeth, Queen Consort and even the Smiling Duchess – but on 4 August 1900, she was born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. She was the ninth child and fourth daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis, and his wife Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck, one of Scotland’s leading aristocratic families.
Lady Elizabeth’s education ended on her 14th birthday with the outbreak of the First World War. During this time, we learn that her Glamis Castle home became a war hospital and, though she was too young to work as a nurse, Elizabeth did assist with the patients. But tragedy struck the family when her oldest brother Fergus, one of her four brothers serving was killed in action at the Battle of Loos.
When peace returned, Elizabeth came out at society balls and functions as a flirtatious, fun-loving young debutante. At 18, Elizabeth was a strikingly attractive woman and many young men were drawn to her, including her future husband-to-be’s dashing older brother Edward, Prince of Wales. However, it was Edward’s brother, Prince Albert or ‘Bertie’, the king and queen’s second son, who pursued her after she caught his eye at a dance in London given by Lord and Lady Farquhar.
In tonight’s edition the programme reveals that Prince Albert, who was five years her senior, first proposed in 1921, but she refused him twice with serious concerns about becoming a member of the royal family. She said at the time that she was ‘afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak, and act as I feel I really ought to’. But his unwavering adoration won her over and Elizabeth eventually accepted Albert’s third proposal.
During the first decade of their marriage, Prince Albert and Princess Elizabeth had the chance to establish an intimate and happy family life. Their relationship at this time was depicted in the 2010 film The King’s Speech, as her husband worked to overcome his terrible stammer. Historians explain that their life at this time was very secluded and private but, much to Elizabeth’s horror, a series of unfortunate events was about to catapult the private pair to the head of the royal family.