Images of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, now on Flickr

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (August 4, 1900–March 30, 2002) married Prince Albert, the Duke of York, on April 26, 1923, and became the Duchess of York. After the death of King George V on January 20, 1936, Albert’s elder brother succeeded their father on the throne. However, Edward VIII abdicated on December 11, 1936, to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Albert then succeeded his brother, assuming the title King George VI.

On May 12, 1937, the day of George VI’s coronation, the Duchess of York became Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and the Empress of India. Neither Albert nor Elizabeth had expected to become king and queen. Nevertheless, they took to their new roles and responsibilities with commitment and empathy. At this time their two children, princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, were 10 and 6 years old respectively.

A black-and-white photograph of saluting King George VI beside Queen Elizabeth outside the Parliament Buildings of Canada.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario, 1939 (MIKAN 3194608)

During the Royal Tour of Canada in 1939, Queen Elizabeth demonstrated her ability to put people at ease, which contributed to her popularity and success in supporting her husband’s royal duties. It was during the Canadian tour that the first “royal walkabout” occurred, as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth spontaneously engaged a group of First World War veterans after the unveiling of the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

A black-and-white photograph of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the rear of the Royal Train

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the rear of the Royal Train, Hope, British Columbia, 1939 (MIKAN 3194610)

The Royal Family remained in London during the Second World War, narrowly escaping injury when Buckingham Palace was bombed during the German blitz of 1940–1941. Their popularity rose to new heights at this time, as they joined the rest of the country in observing wartime ration restrictions on food, water and heat. Throughout the war, Queen Elizabeth displayed her wry wit and perseverance. She continued her service to the monarchy well beyond the death of her husband on February 6, 1952. Her eldest daughter succeeded George VI as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Canada and other Commonwealth nations. To avoid confusion, the new queen’s mother became known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

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