On This Day in Royal History: Why Today Is a Somber Day for Queen Elizabeth

Monique Jessen

On March 30, 2002, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother — the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret — died peacefully in her sleep at age 101.

The poignant anniversary comes as the Queen is currently self-isolating alongside her husband Prince Philip at Windsor Castle amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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Born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon in London on August 4, 1900 to Lord and Lady Glamis, she spent much of her childhood at Glamis Castle in Scotland.

PA Images via Getty Images The Queen Mother

Meeting her future husband Prince Albert (known as Bertie) at a dance in 1920, the couple married at Westminster Abbey in April 1923 and had two children, Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen, and Princess Margaret, who died just weeks before the Queen Mother.

PA Images

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.

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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.

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At her funeral on April 9, 2002, over a million people stood for hours in the freezing cold to pay their respects to the Queen Mother who was patron or president of over 350 organizations and a pillar of strength not only to her own family but also to the nation.

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Anwar Hussein/WireImage Prince Harry, Prince Charles and Prince William at the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002

During the Second World War, it was suggested that the then-Queen should evacuate to Canada or North America where she would be safe from the brutal blitz bombings, to which she made her famous reply: “’The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.” When Buckingham Palace was bombed, she endeared herself to the working-class people of London further by saying: “I am almost glad we have been bombed, now I feel I can look the East End in the face.”

With a love of fishing and horse-racing she was also famous for her love of gin, which she would mix with Dubonnet for a lunchtime tipple, a tradition continued by the Queen today.