Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was the wife of King George VI and the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. She was Queen consort of the United Kingdom and the Dominions from her husband’s accession in 1936 until his death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter. She was the last Empress consort of India.
Born into a family of British nobility as The Honourable Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, she became Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon when her father inherited the Scottish Earldom of Strathmore and Kinghorne in 1904. She came to prominence in 1923 when she married Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. The couple and their daughters embodied traditional ideas of family and public service. She undertook a variety of public engagements and became known as the “Smiling Duchess” because of her consistent public expression.
In 1936, her husband unexpectedly became King when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth became Queen. She accompanied her husband on diplomatic tours to France and North America before the start of World War II. During the war, her seemingly indomitable spirit provided moral support to the British public. In recognition of her role as an asset to British interests, Adolf Hitler described her as “the most dangerous woman in Europe”. After the war, her husband’s health deteriorated and she was widowed at the age of 51. Her elder daughter, aged 25, became the new Queen.
On the death of Queen Mary in 1953 and with the former King Edward VIII living abroad, Elizabeth became the senior member of the British Royal Family and assumed a position as family matriarch. In her later years, she was a consistently popular member of the family, even when other members were suffering from low levels of public approval. She continued an active public life until just a few months before her death at the age of 101, seven weeks after the death of her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.