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CNN Today

Great Britain Pays Tribute to Queen Mother for 100th Birthday

Aired July 19, 2000 - 2:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Great Britain paid tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother today.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Are we going to hear it. Oh, I thought we were going to hear a little bit of that sound.

It was a 100th birthday party fit, well, for a queen. Seven thousand subjects paraded past the queen mum, as she is affectionately known. Another 12,000 guests filled the square outside Buckingham Palace, including grandson Prince Charles. Now protocol required the royal matriarch's daughter, the queen, to stay away from today's festivities.

ALLEN: A group of children formed a living birthday cake for the queen mother. After the giant candles were blown out, the children gave out a few pieces to the crowd.

PHILLIPS: For the queen mother, it's been quite a century.

CNN's Margaret Lowrey takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARGARET LOWREY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the queen mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Born into the bosom of English aristocracy on a summer's day nearly 100 years ago as if to snare a ringside seat when the 20th century began to unfold. But history was to claim her, moving her center stage as her husband became King George VI, forced onto the throne abdicated by his brother, Edward VIII.

GERVASE WEBB, BRITISH JOURNALIST: He was the one who was going to take center stage. Then, of course, Mrs. Simpson turned up. There was the abdication. He was never crowned, and all of a sudden a huge shock to the young Elizabeth, that she was now the queen.

LOWREY: Now the queen, what she called an "intolerable honor" to a reluctant king.

INGRID SEWARD, AUTHOR, "THE LAST GREAT EDWARDIAN LADY": He had no training for kingship. He had never seen a state paper. He had a severe stammer, and he hated making speeches. So basically what it meant was that if he became king, basically the queen mother would have to also be king, because she would have to be right behind him. LOWREY: Behind him, and beside him, through the troubled times of war.

WEBB: She's a small, diminutive woman, but a very strong, very powerful, extremely influential person. I think it's probably fair to say that had it not been for her then we might not have a monarchy now.

LOWREY: She refused to leave London during the Nazi blitz, even after the bombing of Buckingham Palace, an example of courage and calm for a country under siege. Hitler himself reportedly had a name for her.

SEWARD: "The most dangerous woman in Europe," yes, and Hitler was probably right because the queen mother saw through the situation for what it was.

LOWREY: Soft, flowing pastels on the outside, steel on the inside, the last great queen empress, from when the sun never set on the British Empire. Her husband's death in 1952 saw her role gracefully cede to that of the mother of the queen during the years of her daughter's reign as the empire itself slipped away.

WEBB: We've all been through some very unsettled times since the '70s, really, or since the '60s, with the economy going up and down, finding a new role in the world and generally trying to shake off the past and embrace a new sort of way of life and a new lifestyle. And throughout that she has been a sort of constant thread.

LOWREY: A constant thread in the nation's collective scrapbook, and her own family album. Now known not just as the country's granny but grandmother of the heir to the throne and, increasingly, as the great grandmother of the heir's heir. Her admission to the century club means she has lived to see Prince William come of an age himself.

But if the world today is less in awe of the monarchy, less respectful than the world she's inhabited for nearly 10 decades, she nonetheless continues her stately journey into yet another year, another century, the living embodiment of a nation and its history.

Margaret Lowrey, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Not to mention she dresses great, too.

The festivities aren't over yet, the Queen Mother's 100th birthday doesn't come until August 4, and that's when she will appear, of course, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

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