Working on this Agatha Christie book prompts me to wonder about life one hundred years ago, so I googled “what happened in 1923 in England.” One event was the wedding of the Queen Mum, King Charles’ grandmother, and that started me down a fun rabbit hole.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the ninth of ten children of Claude and Nina, Lord and Lady Glamis. For all you Shakespeare lovers: Yes, that Glamis, as in Macbeth. The family can trace their roots back to Robert the Bruce, but it was Sir John Lyon who became Thane of Glamis in the 1300s, a few centuries after Macbeth. Lady Elizabeth and all of her siblings spent much of their childhoods in Glamis Castle.
Like many other great houses, Glamis Castle opened its doors to convalescing soldiers during World War I. Britain joined the War on Lady Elizabeth’s fourteenth birthday, so she was rather young when the wounded started arriving, but she was old enough to help out, and she did.
Four of Lady Elizabeth’s brothers served in the army. Brother Michael was wounded, captured, and imprisoned until the end of the War, and Brother Fergus was killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos, France.
Once the War was over, Lady Elizabeth turned to socializing and flirting like any other young woman. In 1921, she attended a dance in London given by Lord and Lady Farquhar. Prince Albert, the Duke of York, was also in attendance. While Elizabeth was not royal, she and her siblings had visited with the children of King George V and Queen Mary: Edward, Albert, Mary, Henry, George, and John. The Farquhar event, however, was the first time Prince Albert had seen Elizabeth all grown up, and he was smitten.
He soon asked her to marry him, and she refused, knowing full well how difficult it would be to live as a royal, even though Albert was a younger son and not destined to be king. The following year, Elizabeth stood up as a bridesmaid for Albert’s sister, Mary, and the prince proposed to her yet again. And once more, she refused him.
While it was considered a modern, equalitarian notion for Albert to pursue a woman who was not of royal blood, his mother, the Queen, had already approved of the match and he was very much in love. Finally, in January of 1923, Lady Elizabeth said “yes,” and they were married in April, 100 years ago. You can see some film footage
from the event online.
The wedding was held at Westminster Abbey, which is the same place where the coronation of King Charles was recently held. If you watched any of the coronation procession, you may have noticed a slab of black marble on the floor which is Britain’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior from World War I.
As Lady Elizabeth entered the Abbey for her wedding ceremony, she impulsively laid her bridal bouquet on the tomb in memory of her brother, Fergus, and walked up the aisle without flowers. Although they now wait until after the ceremony and photos, many royal brides, including Diana, Kate, and Meghan have continued this tradition.
Camilla was not ma