Socialist Worker

The Queen Mother: The nation's best granny?

Issue No. 1794

The Queen Mother was a racist snob who excelled in extravagant living. Amid all the grovelling, hypocritical tributes paid to her this week, here are some facts to remember. The Queen Mother referred to black people as 'nig-nogs' or 'blackamoors'. She backed white minority rule in Rhodesia. She criticised Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India, 'for giving away the empire' and his wife because 'her mother was half-Jewish'.

She opposed immigration, and thought black Africans incapable of running their own countries. The media call her the 'nation's favourite granny', but she enjoyed luxury beyond most people's wildest dreams. The Queen Mother squandered millions on vintage champagne, racehorses and parties. She had five homes, including a Scottish castle with 25,000 acres worth £20 million.

The castle cost half a million pounds a year to run. She refused to give it up even though she only stayed there for six weeks a year. A small army of 80 servants was employed to look after her. The Queen Mother dined out at the poshest restaurants, like Claridge's and the Ritz. She liked to have 'drinky-poos' before her lavish lunches.

Her fortune was estimated at £60 million. Even so, she couldn't manage on the £643,000 she creamed off us from the civil list every year. Luckily for her, the queen regularly chucked her a million quid or two. Prince Charles had to cough up another £80,000 a year to pay her long-suffering servants.

A royal aide denied she was mean, saying, 'She is simply out of touch with the costs of modern life and believes that what she pays is a living wage.' When officials pointed out that she had amassed a £4 million overdraft, she refused to economise or sell any of her huge jewellery collection. This included a necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette.

In her will she left some money to 'her darlings', not relatives but racehorses. The Queen Mother was hailed as the first commoner to marry into the royal family. In fact 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 born disabled and were secretly locked away in a mental institution for the rest of their lives. The public was told they were dead. She married Prince Albert, who was second in line to the throne. 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.'

When Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, Albert became king and Elizabeth queen. The Second World War was, the media say, the Queen Mother's greatest hour as she stuck by the people of London during the Blitz. But the idea that she shared the wartime privations of ordinary people is a complete myth.

The king and queen visited Buckingham Palace during the day, but slept every night in Windsor Castle. East Enders booed, jeered and pelted the Queen Mother with rubbish on her first tour of east London. She believed her pampered appearance would 'raise morale'. It just showed how she still lived the high life while everyone else endured rationing.

For some 50 years the Queen Mother guarded royal documents in vaults at Windsor Castle that detailed the abdicated king's relations with Hitler and the Nazis. They included captured German documents describing the Windsors' meeting with Hitler in 1937 and plans to restore the Duke of Windsor to the throne if the Nazis won the war. Some of these documents remain hidden from the public.

Before the war began the Queen Mother was a supporter of making concessions to Hitler and the Nazis. She once sent a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf to a friend, saying, 'Even a skip through gives you a good idea of his obvious sincerity.'

The Queen Mother was vicious to anyone she thought undermined the royal family. Her treatment of the royal nanny Marion Crawford was described by one writer as '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'.

She did not step willingly aside for her daughter to become queen. The then prime minister, Winston Churchill, had to bribe her to get her out of Buckingham Palace. The media praise her 'devotion to duty', but she was far more devoted to drinking and betting. The establishment is uneasy about what the response to the Queen Mother's death will be. So they should be. For 100 years we paid to keep her in the lap of luxury.

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Sat 6 Apr 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1794
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