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The Queen Mother lived to 101, staying by her daughter's side for five decades of her reign

By Stephanie Petit
March 30, 2021 01:00 PM
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Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother
| Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty

Queen Elizabeth's beloved mother was by her side for decades of her reign — and when the Queen Mother (born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) died on March 30, 2002, at the age of 101, her daughter honored her with a beautiful tribute.

On the eve of the Queen Mother's funeral, the monarch addressed the nation in a rare televised broadcast from Windsor Castle. In addition to thanking the public for their outpouring of support, the Queen recounted the former consort to King George VI's "infectious zest for living."

"Over the years I have met many people who have had to cope with family loss, sometimes in the most tragic of circumstances. So I count myself fortunate that my mother was blessed with a long and happy life," the Queen said. "She had an infectious zest for living, and this remained with her until the very end. I know too that her faith was always a great strength to her."

Queen Mother
The Queen Mother
| Credit: Evening Standard/Getty

Queen Elizabeth continued, "At the ceremony tomorrow I hope that sadness will blend with a wider sense of thanksgiving, not just for her life but for the times in which she lived — a century for this country and the Commonwealth not without its trials and sorrows, but also one of extraordinary progress, full of examples of courage and service as well as fun and laughter. This is what my mother would have understood, because it was the warmth and affection of people everywhere which inspired her resolve, dedication and enthusiasm for life."

queen Elizabeth and prince Charles
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince Philip at Queen Mother's funeral
| Credit: Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty

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The Queen has only made a few similar addresses to the U.K. and the wider world during her reign (though she does record a Christmas message every year). Her past televised speeches occurred most famously on the eve of the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, at her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and during the Gulf War in 1991. Most recently in April 2020, she paid tribute to healthcare workers and the efforts of everyday people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth & The Queen Mother
Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother
| Credit: John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty

At the time of her death, the Queen Mother was a much-loved public figure who had seen the nation through two world wars and many periods of subsequent difficulty and change.

When her husband was crowned King George VI on December 12 1936, after the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII, she became the first British-born Queen Consort since Tudor times — a pillar of strength to him and also to the nation. Known for fun-loving attitude and sense of duty (she was still carrying out public engagements in the last months of her life, despite illness), she was a source of comfort to the nation through difficult times.

Elizabeth and queen mother
Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother
| Credit: Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty

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On the day of her death, Buckingham Palace announced the sad news: "The Queen, with the greatest sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately: her beloved mother, Queen Elizabeth, died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Members of the royal family have been informed." Becoming increasingly frail after developing a cough and infection over the Christmas period, she quietly passed away with her daughter, the Queen by her side."

Queen Elizabeth's sister and the Queen Mother's younger daughter, Princess Margaret, died just seven weeks early at the age of 71.