Socialist Worker

Snob, Racist & Bigot

Issue No. 1706

Queen Mother's 100th birthday bash

Snob, Racist & Bigot

(And we are paying to keep her in luxury)

YOU WON'T be seeing the above words to describe the Queen Mother in the media coverage of her 100th birthday. The press portray her as a saint above criticism. In reality she is a tough, ruthless defender of privilege. The Queen Mother refers to anyone black as a "nig-nog" or a "blackamoor". She backed white minority rule in Rhodesia and passionately supports the death penalty.

She distrusted Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India, "for giving away the empire" and disliked his wife because "her mother was half-Jewish". She refers to Germans as "Huns" and raises her glass every time the name Margaret Thatcher is mentioned. She is opposed to immigration and thinks that black Africans cannot run their own countries.

Background

WHEN THE Queen Mother married into the royal family in 1923 she was hailed as the first "commoner" ever to have done so. She was not exactly "common". She was the daughter of the Earl of Strathmore, and her full name was Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. Hers was a typically caring aristocratic family. Two of Elizabeth's nieces were disabled at birth and secretly locked away in a mental institution for the rest of the lives. The public were told they were dead decades before it was true. She married Prince Albert who was second in line to the throne. Elizabeth was also keen on Albert's brother, the man directly in line to throne, who would later become Edward VIII.

But he was not interested, so she eventually settled for his brother. One biographer, Michael Thornton, writes, "Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was determined to marry into the royal family, so after his third proposal, she settled for the runt of the litter." Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. Albert became King George VI, and Elizabeth queen. She was tough from the start. The abdicated king was sent to be the governor of the Bahamas.

Elizabeth thought this scandalous and wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies which said that to make "a divorced woman with three living husbands the wife of the governor of the Bahamas would result in a disastrous lowering of standards". She stripped the Duchess of Windsor of all royal titles and insisted no one should curtsey before her. She set about repairing the reputation of the royals. She fostered the image of herself as the perfect bride and mother with an ideal family. The foreign secretary Lord Halifax described her as "a steel hand within a velvet glove".

Edouard Daladier, French premier, said the queen was "an excessively ambitious young woman who would be ready to sacrifice every other country in the world so that she might remain queen".

The war

THE SECOND World War was, the media say, the Queen Mother's greatest hour. The king and queen, they claim, refused to "abandon their people" and stayed in London during the blitz. When Buckingham Palace was bombed she said, "I'm most happy we've been hit. It makes me feel I can look the blitzed East End in the face." East Enders, however, knew they were not in the same boat as Elizabeth. They booed the royals' first tour of east London. The king and queen travelled to Buckingham Palace in the day, but slept every night in Windsor Castle.

They ate luxuriously while most other people survived on rations. The king had two eggs and six rashers of bacon for breakfast every day and ate grouse for dinner every night. The queen insisted their tea was a special blend of China and Ceylon. Ordinary people had to make do with an egg ration, which at one point allowed them just half an egg a week. Silk was banned from public sale so it could be used to make parachutes-except when it came to the royal ballgowns. Elizabeth changed outfits at least four times a day on a trip to the US during the war. One of her maids spent all day laying out her clothes and coordinating her jewellery.

The Nazis

FOR OVER 50 years the Queen Mother was responsible for guarding royal documents that detailed the abdicated king's relations with Hitler and the Nazis. She had all the former king's papers sealed in the vaults of Windsor Castle, including captured German war documents that summarised the Windsors' meeting with Hitler in 1937. Within those documents were the notes of the plan to restore the Duke of Windsor to the throne if the Nazis won the war.

Some of these documents were released earlier this year, but not the most important ones. The Queen Mother and her husband were great appeasers of Hitler. They invited prime minister Chamberlain to wave to crowds in triumph from the balcony of Buckingham Palace when he returned from making a deal with Hitler in Munich.

Nanny basher

THE QUEEN Mother is ruthless and unforgiving to anyone she deems to have betrayed the royal family. She pilloried former royal nanny Marion Crawford when she wrote a sugary and sentimental memoir of her time doing the job. The Queen Mother claims she broke the trust of the family and never spoke to Crawford again.

But recently revealed documents show that the Queen Mother was in on the story all along. The memoir was a deliberate and secret attempt by Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office to boost the royals' standing abroad. Crawford was to provide information to a reporter, and was to be paid, but her name was not to be used.

The whole business spiralled out of control, so the royals scapegoated Crawford and dumped her. Royal writer Anthony Holden says the story is "symptomatic of the ruthless and brutal cold-heartedness of that family and the way they treat the victims they leave in their wake who have generally done them great service".

Attitudes

HER IGNORANCE has been deliberately hidden from the world. Journalist A N Wilson was denounced when he reported the details of a conversation with the Queen Mother in the Spectator magazine. She had told him of an evening during the war when the poet T S Eliot went to Buckingham Palace and read the royals his most famous poem, The Wasteland. She said it was "an embarrassment. We had this rather lugubrious man in a suit and he read a poem called the Desert. We all giggled. Such a gloomy man, looked as though he worked in a bank, and we didn't understand a word."

Later years

WE ARE always told how the Queen Mother loves her home, Clarence House. The truth is that prime minister Winston Churchill had to bribe her to leave Buckingham Palace when her husband died by promising to refurbish what she called a "horrid little house". Churchill also offered her the governorship of Australia to keep her happy. She refused and insisted she make up her own title-Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother-so she could still be called queen. She also insisted she was guaranteed a big income and a large staff of servants. Today she has 50.

She has two other houses, one in Windsor, the other in Balmoral, as well as her own castle in Scotland with 25,000 acres. The Queen Mother's later years have been spent mainly drinking, gambling and blowing large amounts of our money. She gambles on the horses so much that she had her own personal bookie wire installed in her house to receive up to the minute horse racing results. One barrister the Queen Mother visited reported how her lady in waiting always arrives first with a list of instructions about how she is to be treated. She demands plenty of gin and tonic in her bedroom.

Despite sponging off the rest of us to the tune of �634,000 a year from the Civil List, her official overdraft is currently �4 million. Some estimate the unofficial one is closer to �40 million. And we are paying to keep her in this opulent lifestyle.


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Sat 22 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1706
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