A lifetime of letters by the beloved queen mother reflects a tumultuous century in England.
Edited by Shawcross (The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, 2009, etc.), these letters by Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (1900–2002) move from the gushing expressions of a young privileged person to a grasp of sobering responsibility and mature conviction as world events began to shape her future. The vivacious youngest daughter to Lord and Lady Strathmore, growing up amid a big, happy family on their country estates, Elizabeth reveals her early sunny disposition in letters to her mother and rather disorganized education but keen mimicry of the Scottish dialect as written to her favorite brother, David. Evidently well-loved and popular, she attracted many suitors, including the stammering, awkward second son of George V, called Bertie, whom she politely rebuffed for two years but then accepted in January 1923 (“I feel terrified now I’ve done it…in fact nobody is more surprised than me”). Fourteen years as the Duchess of York followed fairly happily, during which Elizabeth (“Lilibet”) and Margaret were born. The untimely death of George V and the stunning abdication of Edward VIII delivered back-to-back blows, and Elizabeth reveals an authentic loyalty to her husband (“I am terrified for him…do help him,” she wrote to her reprobate brother-in-law) and growing confidence bolstered by religion and a sense of being in touch with the British people. Her natural touch helped gain the crown enormous support during World War II, as revealed in her radio appeals to British and American women.
Courtly, engaging, down-to-earth letters by a kindly English aristocrat of the old school.