Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: Europe’s Most Dangerous Woman

Queen Elizabeth with U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

It was 1941, the height of World War II and London was facing the toughest days in her history. The Blitz pounded the British Empire’s capital. While thousands of Londoners fled for their safety to the countryside, Great Britain’s King and Queen, George VI and his consort, Elizabeth, were adamant. They would never leave London.  Instead, they became lasting symbols of the country’s fight against Nazism and all the horrors it brought. They already sent their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, to Windsor Castle. Despite the urging of the Cabinet to evacuate to Canada, she declared, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."

The couple spent their days visiting troops, hospitals, factories, and areas bombed and attacked by the German Luftwaffe. The East End, near London's docks, in particular, was frequently visited.  Initially, her visits were not welcomed and even incited violence. Rubbish were thrown at her while the crowd jeered as she approached. Partly the reason was because she wore expensive clothes at a time when everyone could barely afford to buy food. The public considered it such a waste.

But the Queen was quick to defend herself. She said that if the public knew she would be coming, they would definitely dress their best, so she wanted to reciprocate in kind. Norman Hartnell prepared her clothes in gentle colours instead of black. Her dresses, according to Hartnell, served at "the rainbow of hope". The Queen and King George VI were at Buckingham Palace when it was severely bombed but her spirit did not waver. Instead, she quipped: "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face." At the height of hostilities, the Queen was trained to use a gun so she could defend herself in case the Germans successfully invade London. But that never happened. The King and Queen’s courage inspired the nation to rally no matter how bombed-out they were. Such was her pluck that even Adolf Hitler called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe" because he viewed her popularity as a threat to German interests.

The war ended in 1945 and Great Britain and the Allied Forces defeated Hitler and the Nazis. But Britain was left exhausted—both in resources and manpower. Soon, it could no longer hold on to its colonies and by 1946, decolonization began. In 1952, King George VI died and their daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. The former queen was thence known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, beloved throughout the country and around the world for her warm personality and heartfelt smile that endeared her to everybody. 

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