MUCH has been made of how different Meghan Markle’s background is from the rest of the royal family – but The Queen Mother was once con
MUCH has been made of how different Meghan Markle’s background is from the rest of the royal family – but The Queen Mother was once considered the outsider too.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth II’s mum, was considered a “breath of fresh air”, just like the Duchess of Sussex, when she married King George VI in 1923 after he had proposed to her three times.
As Channel 5’s Queen Mum: The Reluctant Queen will show, The Queen Mother – who passed away in 2002 aged 101 – was as unlikely an addition to the royal family as the Duchess of Sussex, 37.
During King George V’s reign, the royal family was considered stuffy and the then-Duchess of York was considered to have been a breath of fresh air, according to the upcoming programme.
“It doesn’t seem odd to use now, but the fact that she was a commoner in that she wasn’t a member of a royal family was really new and broke convention,” royal historian Alistair Bruce reveals.
“And yet king George V and Queen Mary adored her freshness of attitude.
“She had utterly beguiling eyes and an impish style, and I don’t think the King had ever really come across that before.”
Phillip Ziegler, a historian, agrees: “I think it’s probably true to say that the king liked his daughter-in-law almost more than any of his own children.
“She was a very warm and charming presence and she was obviously respectful towards them but didn’t take them all that seriously.”
Of her upbringing, royal biographer Jane Ridley adds: “She’s always been a social success, ever since she was a little girl everyone adored her.
“Very funny, very witty. everybody always wanted to be with her. She came into a room and it lighted up.”
The Queen Mother disapproved of the girlfriend of King Edward VIII – who took over as monarch when his father died in 1936.
She disliked the fact Wallis Simpson was American and previously divorced – two attributes that Meghan has.
“Being an American was a problem, being a twice divorced woman was a disastrous problem,” Ziegler explains.
“It was an impossible consideration. She could not sit upon the throne. It would have been totally unacceptable to nine-tenths of the British population. And very much for the Duchess of York.”
Elizabeth was concerned that Wallis would cause Edward to give up the throne, leaving her famously shy husband forced to take over.
In a letter to her mother-in-law Queen Mary, she wrote: “I hope you don’t mind me mentioning this ma’ma but relations are already a little difficult when naughty ladies are bought in.
“And up to now we’ve not met the lady at all. I would like to remain quite outside the whole affair.”
When Edward did abdicate in after eleven months in 1936, The Queen Mother was furious.
Her husband George VI was crowned king and was forced to undergo speech therapy so he didn’t stammer while making speeches in public.
She was so angry at what her brother-in-law had done to place her family – including Princess Elizabeth and Margaret – in the public eye that she stopped the royal family attending Edward’s wedding in France, prevented Wallis being given the title ‘Your Royal Highness’, and the couple into exile in France.
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However, The Queen Mother and Meghan aren’t the only commoners to marry into the royal in recent times, with Kate Middleton also taking up the mantle.
The Duchess of Sussex has still not received her British citizenship, meaning her baby with Prince Harry will become the first Anglo-American born into the royal family.
Since joining the royal family, Meghan has become the “new Diana” with PR tactics, briefing friends on the “truth” behind headlines and defying palace bigwigs.
The Queen Mum: The Reluctant Queen, Channel 5, Saturday, 9pm