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Queen Mother Dies at 101

Aired March 30, 2002 - 12:49   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We have a breaking story now. Sad news that Britain's queen mother has died. We want to now take you to a look back at her long life and reign as a queen.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was Great Britain's great grandmother. A confection of big hats and winsome dresses, and a smile -- a smile that could disarm an army or draw admirers to stand for hours at her gate in hopes of a glimpse. Or better still, a word.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's the most marvelous person in the world. I really do. She means more to me than anyone else in the world.

BLYSTONE: All to spite the fact that this daughter of an earl was still, by the fine print of royal protocol, born a commoner. Despite that, or because of it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She brought a particular kind of charm and public appeal, the like of which no authentic member of the royal family ever quite seems to have had.

BLYSTONE: But there was more than that to the girl from Scotland who married the prince, whom fate would make King George VI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In all, she was a very strong-willed extremely strong woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has been an extremely shrewd and tough operator.

BLYSTONE: Born at the dawn of the 20th century, she reshaped the British monarchy to fit it. And as the century waned, she lived to see her handy work seemingly going up in smoke. Her daughter and grandchildren plagued by scandal and divorce, overshadowed by the life and death of Princess Diana.

When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the king's second son in 1923 neither expected nor wanted to move into Buckingham Palace. Then, in a burst of scandal, King Edward VIII abdicated to marry the American divorcee Wallace Simpson, and left the thrown to his shy, stammering younger brother. For the first time in centuries, Britain's queen consort was not of royal blood, was British and had married her husband for love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was deeply in love with him, but greatly resented the fact that he had been (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And it was her more than anyone that steered him into being the king that we had during the war and a very popular man.

BLYSTONE: She gave heart not only to the king, touring bombed out areas of London during Nazi Germany's blitz at the beginning of World War II. And after bombs hit her own home, she was glad, she said, because now she could look East End Londoners in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of her reaction against the abdication process was a great development in the sense of duty. That part of being a monarch is to take on your shoulders a huge responsibility. And she instilled that in the queen and her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Prince Charles.

BLYSTONE: And she set out to revamp the concept of the royal family and its image. She sensed that the people wanted family monarchy, working monarchy, reassuring monarchy. She embarked on the perilous tightrope walk between popularity and pop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there was that planned balance between the regal side of the monarchy and the human side. And I think more than anyone else she actually captured that.

BLYSTONE: She raised expectations that were hard to match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She really set the scene for the typical royal marriage in this century. And I think our shock and sort of disbelief at the awful matrimony and mess that the royal family got itself into is partly because for a long time we had been brought up with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that the queen mother promulgated.

BLYSTONE: When King George died in 1952, she had been queen consort for only 16 years. She was to be queen mother for two generations, while Britain declined from its imperial might. Most living Britons can't remember when the queen mum wasn't there year in, year out, in good times and worst times. The most beloved of the royals; the last figurehead from the days of their glory. As the British mourn her, they are mourning themselves.

Richard Blystone, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: More now on the life of Queen Elizabeth II from Walter Rodgers.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the better part of a century, she waved to the British people, first as the duchess of York, then queen, then later as queen mother. Now it was Britain's turn to wave goodbye. Few alive today recall that it was the queen mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who actually rescued the British monarchy before the second world war. Rescued it during the 1936 abdication crisis. For that, she earned the undying gratitude of the British people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They especially love her because she turned her husband into a king and helped him stand up and helped Britain win the war.

RODGERS: In 1936, Britain's crisis was not a war. It was the decision of King Edward VIII to give up the thrown. He wanted to marry an American divorcee, Wallace Simpson, and chose to abdicate to do it. One journalist called the abdication the greatest news story since the resurrection.

At that time, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the duchess of York, sister-in-law of Edward the abdicator. He stepped down because he said he could not reign without the woman he loved. To marry the woman he loved, Edward had to give up the British thrown.

Elizabeth was married to Edward's brother George, who was next in line. By all accounts, George dreaded the thought of becoming king, dreaded the spotlight. So did his wife Elizabeth. She was angry this absence of choice was thrust upon her and her husband. She knew her husband was ill equipped, feared he would not make it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Faced this appalling prospect for a very shy, very nervous, very stuttering, and not very intellectual young man to suddenly have to take on this astonishing role. And she had to support him, and she felt protective towards him and furious with the man and the woman who had forced this to happen.

RODGERS: There were very real concerns George VI could not cope. His hobby was needlework. At the time, England was headed for war with Hitler. Some feared he would not make it through his own coronation.

It was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who then became queen and mother to the current queen, who gave her husband courage, strength and spine. Scots blood coursed through her, steel of Macbeth, some said.

If her husband was not ready, reluctantly, she was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What she saw was the huge unbelievable burden that had been imposed on her husband and her children because of Wallace Simpson. They could have grown up -- the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret -- in a relatively normal fashion. Her husband would probably have lived for many years longer had it not been for Wallace Simpson.

RODGERS: Wallace Simpson simply was not acceptable in Britain or to the commonwealth in 1936. She was divorced, she was American, she was a commoner. Worse, she had made an enemy of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the woman who became queen and later queen mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality of the situation is that Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, as she became, did not particularly like Wallace Simpson, felt that she had led her brother-in-law astray. Resented her for the fact that she had catapulted her husband onto the thrown, which she did not want.

RODGERS: And there lies one of history's great riddles: Why would the queen mother so dislike the woman who paved the way for her to become queen? One theory: jealousy. Elizabeth was one of the many women that Edward passed over before falling in love with Wallace Simpson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had sad blue eyes, and wherever he went people wanted to be in his presence. She, too, fell under that spell.

RODGERS: In subsequent decades, the royal family came to dismiss that as mere rumor. If truth be told, however, Edward VIII may have been unsuited to be king -- foppish, feckless, privately sympathetic to Adolf Hitler. So Edward abdicated, gave us his thrown. His brother, George VI, didn't want it, but his wife -- herself a commoner -- saved the royal family in this crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the best thing that ever happened to the royal family. It saved the house of Windsor. It took somebody, a commoner, a Scottish aristocrat, but nevertheless a commoner, to really put some tough fiber and sensibility. And she became very royal as she went on.

RODGERS: On that one issue nearly everyone agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the queen mother provided a great balance of stability. She was a strong woman who strengthened, reinvigorated the dynasty. And in a sense her legacy is to be found in Queen Elizabeth II, who is also a considerable monarch.

RODGERS: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, mother to a queen, wife to a king, sister-in-law to another king. Not considered the intellectual equal of the first Queen Elizabeth, but certainly her equal in force of will. It was that will that rescued the British monarchy in the great abdication crisis. That will which strengthened her husband during the second world war. And it was her willpower which helped hold the British monarchy together through two more generations, through the divorces of Charles and Diana and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Andrew and Fergie.

Now one can only guess how the royal family will manage without her.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: So if you're just joining us, Britain's queen mother has died at the age of 101. She died in her sleep at 3:15 London time, which is 10:15 Eastern time today at Windsor. And joining us now is Robert Jobson. He is a royal commentator, and perhaps you can shed a little bit more light on exactly what happened. Apparently, the queen was at her mother's side when she passed away in her sleep. What more can you tell us?

ROBERT JOBSON, ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well all we know at this moment is very vague. But what we do know is about an hour and a half ago, it was confirmed, well I confirmed it with somebody close to the Royal Family. It has been expected. I think the queen herself has been very concerned about her mother's health over the last three months, particularly after the death of Princess Margaret.

Obviously, it's a deep sadness and it's going to be very difficult, I think, for the Royal Family to come to terms with this in this Jubilee Year. The queen has lost her mother and her sister in the space of weeks.

WHITFIELD: And the queen mum's health had been frail, not just because of the passing of Princess Margaret just in January or so, but also she was fighting her health because of a chest infection most recently, isn't that right?

JOBSON: Absolutely correct. She has been suffering from a chest infection and it was, I think, before Christmas that she contracted this and she just wasn't able to shake it off. I mean 101 is old. She was obviously very, very frail indeed, and I think that the death of Margaret and her determination to attend the funeral, despite advice from both Prince Charles and the queen probably took its toll on the queen mother, and she was never really able to return to her house, the Clarence House, the place that she lived in London for all those years, and had to stay quietly in Royal Lodge surrounded by her friends and by her servants and courtiers who had to come to her.

WHITFIELD: Now just prior to the queen mum attending the funeral of Princess Margaret, when was the last time that the public saw her and in what condition did she appear?

JOBSON: It was prior to Christmas. She was in -- she seemed herself in quite good spirits. She was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the queen for Christmas and the Royal Family and she was seen publicly there. But obviously, everybody has been deeply concerned about her health over the last year.

She has been losing her eyesight and she wasn't eating in the last few months as well. So I think there is a degree of inevitability about it, but obviously of deep sadness for the British people, who in many ways the queen mother was somebody they have deep affection for, rather like that of Princess Diana.

WHITFIELD: And how do you expect that people there in Great Britain will be honoring the life of queen mum?

JOBSON: I think a lot, an awful lot of people wanted to show, pay their respects to the queen mother. There will be nine days of official mourning now. But they will be able to see her body lying in state, and I think an awful lot of people want to pay their respects to this lady, that really did, was a leader in many ways with Winston Churchill and the King in the war. She was seen as somebody that really everybody rallied towards when they rallied around the Royal Family and I think there's a deep affection for her and I think that will be demonstrated over the next few days.

WHITFIELD: And what is the queen saying, if anything, publicly or among her aides there right now about her mother's passing?

JOBSON: The queen herself won't say anything. She's at Windsor Castle where she was to be for Easter this year. I'm actually in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Switzerland with the Prince of Wales and his two sons, Princes William and Harry, who are on holiday skiing here. I'm just about to have a briefing with one of his aides to find out what exactly his movements will be. But I expect that he will be flying home very, very soon and he will be flying back to comfort his mother and to help lead his family.

WHITFIELD: What do you suppose will be told to young Princes William and Harry? They have been through so much already. How, you know, will the aides there try to comfort them or inform them in the most tender way that they can?

JOBSON: I don't think it will be anything to do with the aides. Charles himself will break the news to his two boys. I think there's a sense of probability that the queen mother would be passing. Although there will be sadness, there will also be relief because she was a terribly old lady and she was getting ill and she couldn't do the things that she wanted to do, then there was really no point in really her continuing. I'm sure she would agree with that, and the Prince will break his news very gently to his sons, and we will find out very shortly when they will be flying back. I think it will be very, very soon indeed.

WHITFIELD: All right. Royal Commentator, Robert Jobson, thanks very much for joining us this afternoon, and filling us in on the details of the passing of 101-year-old queen mum and now we want to see a little bit more of her life and her legacy, followed by Margaret Lowry.


MARGARET LOWRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Not just the royal matriarch, the queen mother was a royal trooper. At an age few people even live to, she was teetering out on high heeled shoes to greet the crowds gathered for her 101st birthday, determined not to disappoint the ever-admiring public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was always surprised when you saw the mix of people, well wishers who turned out to see the queen mother. They were not all old people, far from it. There were quite a few young people there, and it is something, which is passed on from, you know, generation to generation.

LOWRY: Now too from generation to generation, the Royal show must go on, but it does so with an altered, some might say, diminished cast. In less than five years, the Royal Family has lost two of its most popular members, Princess Diana and now, of course, the queen mum.

But trouble won't necessarily follow for the monarchy. There is an ongoing debate about its role, its shape and size. The polls show most people here, not only want a monarchy, they think the Royal Family is overall doing a pretty good job. Queen Elizabeth is the most popular. Prince Charles is now, not only heir to the throne, but the public's second favorite royal according to polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's more stories about him in the papers than there may have been when Diana was around, so we are now more appreciative of the things he actually does and the good works with young, unemployed and disadvantaged children for example, through the Prince's trust is now being much more appreciated than it possibly had been.

LOWRY: That also means there is less need now to conceal his relationship with long-time love Camilla Parker Bowles, but there's no danger she'll replace Diana in the public's affections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The British public, I think, are more accepting of her and his relationship with her, but don't want to be reminded of her too much.

LOWRY: But that same British reserve that doesn't let Parker Bowles into the spotlight, lets it shine on the rest of the family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the British public is generally inherently conservative with a small "c" and quite happy with the status quo, as long as there isn't too much drama with which to focus on and then change that status quo. So I think the monarchy will continue and outlive us all.

LOWRY: The concept of the family more important than its members, the whole more popular than the sum of even its most beloved parts.

Margaret Lowry, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: Britain's queen mum, 101-year-old Queen Elizabeth has died this morning, Eastern time 10:15, 3:15 London time. She passed away in her sleep. Her health had been quite frail over the past few months particularly.

She's been called everything from the icon of our century, the nation's favorite grandmother, the richest jewel in the Royal Family's crown. These are some of the ways in which people are remembering her. Once again, queen mum has died at 101 years old. She died in her sleep at Windsor.

We want to take you now to CNN International coverage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she still felt a duty to her family. She spent time with Princess Margaret and was particularly fond of her eldest grandson, Prince Charles. She gave her blessing to his marriage to Lady Diana.


WHITFIELD: We'd like to clarify that. That is ITN coverage now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there was an obligation too, to a public that had come to adore her. She had charm, grace, and that common touch people wanted. She was made an honorary meat porter at Smithfield Market.

And she reminisced with the older residents of London, some of whom remembered her wartime visits.

Remembering those who dies in the war was always a priority for her, attending the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ceremonies every year, until her health began to fail.

Despite two successful hip replacements and a determination to walk unaided, she became increasingly fragile, and often used a buggy to fulfill those engagements she was well enough to attend.

And in the end came the pain of watching the decline of her youngest daughter, Margaret. She was driven from the funeral at St. George's Chapel, a funeral which, by the saddest coincidence, took place 50 years to the day after her husband's burial there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, if you've just joined us, a reminder that we're on air with this special program because Buckingham Palace has announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother. The official announcement said that she died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon at the Royal Lodge in Windsor. The queen was at her mother's bedside, said a palace spokesman.

The spokesman added that Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother had become increasingly frail in recent weeks, following her bad cough and chest infection over Christmas.

The statement went on: "Her condition deteriorated this morning and her doctors were called." Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, died peacefully in her sleep at 3:15 this afternoon at Royal Lodge. The queen mother's coffin is expected to be moved to the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park tomorrow morning.

Well, let's go now to our newsroom and Phillip Ray Smith is there. Phillip, can you tell us what the other members of the Royal Family will be doing? Will, for example, the queen and the rest of the family be attending services at Windsor for Easter tomorrow?

PHILLIP RAY SMITH: Well, we understand that the queen is currently at Windsor Castle with Prince Phillip, and traditionally, of course, the Royal Family has always tried to keep the regular church services and on this particularly important day in the holy calendar, Easter as it is tomorrow, we expect that the queen will be carrying on as normal in that sense with that service.

We understand that Prince Charles, who of course is skiing with his children at the moment in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will also be returning to the U.K. He's expected to go straight back to Windsor with his children. Of course, Charles was always described as the queen mother's favorite grandson and he certainly had a particular affection for her, as did his children, Prince William and Prince Harry.

So, we expect to see the Royal Family regrouping at Windsor, meeting up there, ready to see the coffin of the queen mother moving to the Royal Chapel in Windsor Great Park tomorrow, where she will lie for about, we expect, five days, before the coffin is transferred to Westminster Hall where she'll lie in state. There will be a procession to Westminster Hall.

These are certainly the plans. It's not known whether these plans will be stuck to, but that's what we are expecting will happen in the next few days.

Usually, according to plan, certainly the funeral would be a few days after that at Westminster Abbey, where after that, the coffin of the queen mother would be returned to Windsor, where we understand she's likely to be buried in St. George's Chapel, next to her husband, King George VI.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phillip, she was a very elderly and very much loved lady, of course, huge heap of love from the British public and way beyond. What reaction is coming in so far?

SMITH: Well, it's early today of course, but there is a sense that a lady of 102 years old, it is expected that she would have faced certain health problems, health issues and we're told that indeed the cough and chest infection that she has had since Christmas worsened today. Her condition deteriorated. But in terms of reaction, it's still early day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Phillip, for the time being, thank you. Well, the queen mother always viewed her birthday as special, a time for her to meet her very many fans. She always enjoyed the occasion and saw it as hugely important.

Even though she had only left hospital days before, the queen mother was determined to meet those, as it may, the effort to join her 101st birthday celebrations.

Nicholas Arian (ph) now looks back at that special day.


NICHOLAS ARIAN, CORRESPONDENT: Just days after leaving hospital, where she had been treated for anemia, the queen mother made her traditional appearance outside the gates of her London home for her 101st birthday. Thousands were there to joint he celebrations. Accompanied by her daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, she seemed to be enjoying the occasion. Only at one point was there any indication that she'd been in hospital only days beforehand. Taking a salute from the guards, she briefly lost her balance and fell back into her chair. But she was steady enough on her feet to meet some of the youngsters who wanted to wish her a very happy birthday.

And then, it was into her buggy, and on to meet some of the others who had made the journey to London for the day. She smiled and stopped to talk to people as they gave her cards, flowers, and presents. But as they are every year, the real celebrations were a family affair, in private, behind the gates of Clarence House.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon. If you've just joined us, a reminder that we're staying on air with a special program because Buckingham Palace has announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother. She was 101.

The official announcement said that she died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, her home. Her daughter, the queen, was at her mother's bedside when she died. A palace spokesman said that Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, had become increasingly frail in recent weeks, following her bad cough and chest infection over Christmas.

The statement went on: "Her condition deteriorated this morning and her doctors were called." Queen Elizabeth died peacefully in her sleep at 3:15 this afternoon at Royal Lodge. The queen mother's coffin is expected to be moved to the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park tomorrow morning.

Well, I'm joined now by royal expert Robert Lacey (ph). Robert, how will she be remembered?

ROBERT LACEY, ROYAL EXPERT: Well in such a long life, for many things. When she first joined the Royal Family, she was really like the Lady Diana of her time. She brought a smile to the face of a rather stuffy Victorian institution.

With the abdication, of course, she was really the backbone of King George VI, the unexpected King, the father of the present queen with his stutter, his nervousness, and she played an enormous role then in really, not just saving the monarchy, but giving Britain a figurehead who, during World War II, really worked alongside Winston Churchill in a marvelous fashion.

And then, of course, for the last 50 years, she's been a sort of national mother figure. So it seems, and her longevity has been so extraordinary, I think this news will obviously come, despite her age, as an enormous shock to people. She always had this, not just health, but very positive mental attitude, which I think inspired the whole Royal Family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very much loved amongst the public, but also as you say, within her own family. How do you think they will be -- how will they be affected by her death, because she has lived to such an extraordinary age of course?

LACEY: Yes, well of course in one sense, it could be seen as expected, but it must be a terrible blow for the queen to have lost her sister in one month and now the queen mother, her own mother, so soon afterwards. I mean these three women were at the very heart of the Royal Family for so many years, through World War II in particular. I mean the queen mother said, you know, I'm not going to leave because the girls are not going to leave.

And then, of course, for Prince Charles, she was a sort of surrogate mother. In the early years of her reign, the queen was traveling abroad so much that her mother, the queen mother, stood in really and we know, for example, when Prince Charles was unhappy in his school days at Bordenston (ph), it was to his grandmother that he went and talked and he said what an enormous inspiration she's always been, particularly on the artistic side of his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very sad for the queen that this second death should happen and in her Jubilee year as well of course.

LACEY: Yes. Yes, it is. In a way, it's a difficult thing to say perhaps, it is a blessing that it happened now rather than closer to the Jubilee itself. I think there's been a sense in this uncertainty people feel about the Jubilee, certainly in the media, that well the queen mother could pass away at any moment.

I mean to take a historical parallel, the previous queen mother, queen Mary, actually died shortly before the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II back in 1953. That did not prove to be a dampener on the event. Obviously, it was sad and it was mourned, particularly by the Royal Family, but I think the queen mother would have wanted things to go on and she certainly wouldn't want any discouragement at the Jubilee celebration she was actually so looking forward to seeing herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But put her a little more in context if you would for us, because of course, she was much beloved during those war years. They are a long time ago now and there's a whole generation or two for whom those memories are almost too distant to be able to draw upon. How important was she?

LACEY: Well, during World War II, the little figure, the plump little figure with the fur around her shoulders and the smile, somehow symbolized the spirit of Britain. Winston Churchill was the bulldog side of things with the grit and the determination. The queen mother was the softer side. She and her husband, and let's not forget George VI in all of this.

I mean with her birthdays every year, we tended always to think about the queen mother and forget that she was always very much the support to her husband, and that was one of her great strengths, unlike later generations of Royal women. She could never have been accused of trying to upstage her man, or trying to be jealous of him.

She just represented everything people thought they were fighting for. She was a mother. She was a wife, and through times with everybody, in time of total war when civilians were really suffering in many ways as much as people at the front, she symbolized this new aspect of what war was like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in a sense, she also made a new...

WHITFIELD: You've been watching ITN. We want to welcome now our CNN International viewers, as we continue to follow the developments, this breaking story of Queen Elizabeth II, who has died at 101. She died earlier today in her sleep at 3:15 London time, 10:15 Eastern time, and of course, the country there is in great mourning of its favorite grandmother.

Great Britain's favorite grandmother passed away with her daughter Queen Elizabeth at her side. queen mum has been increasingly frail over the past few months, particularly after doctors have tried to help her with a chest infection. She is the longest living British Royal in memory, and played a part and was a great witness to several significant developments and historical moments in a century's time.

We want to bring in now Ingrid Seward. She's a biographer of queen mum. You knew her very intimately, watched her legacy as it happened. Why is it that Great Britain so loved queen mum?

INGRID SEWARD, BIOGRAPHER: Well she represents a golden era in a way that is now completely past. She represents all that was great about Great Britain, as we perceive it, and I think the death of the queen mother, which was obviously not unexpected, it's still a shock because you think well, that's the end of that, and now what is going to happen now. Even though she was 101 years old, she still had an influence over the Royal Family and, indeed, over the people of Great Britain.

WHITFIELD: In what way was her influence most marked?

SEWARD: Her influence was really by her great presence and the fact that she was the last queen (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She was queen when Britain's power covered over a quarter of the world and she was always -- she was actually the main figure in making the monarchy what it is today, this -- well supposedly perceived family unit of marriage and children.

She was very, very important in that and I think it's just like she's a lynch pin of the monarchy. And although she was, in fact, 101 she was still influential just by her presence, even if she didn't actually do very much about it.

WHITFIELD: She was also dubbed sort of the richest jewel in the Royal Family. Why do you suppose commoners so much loved and adored her?

SEWARD: Because she was a very -- everyone said many times she has the common touch. She could walk with Kings and Princes, but she had the common touch. She was the one that always turned her head so that the photographers would get a picture of her. She was the one that always noticed the small child in the crowd. She invented what we call the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which was actually but of pressing flesh amongst the crowds.

She might have been a very grand lady, but she was really right there with the people, her people she called them.

WHITFIELD: It's widely known that Prince Charles was her favorite grandson, as many people have dubbed it. He is out skiing with his sons, Prince William and Harry. He has received news of his grandmother's passing. How do you suppose he will be taking this news? It was inevitable, as many have said, that she would be passing given her age and her frail health, but how do you suppose he'll be taking this news?

SEWARD: Well, he will obviously feel that his duty is to be at his mother the queen's side. So I should think as we speak he's probably on his way back. The Royal Family never travel without their clothes of mourning. He will be on his way back from Switzerland. He may even be back now, and I'm sure that he just feels it's his duty to be there with the queen, that it is his duty to be there with the queen.

So, and of course, he will feel very deeply about the queen mother. When someone's at that great age, it doesn't come so much as a shock as a great sadness that her era is now gone.

WHITFIELD: She was the Princess Diana who spanned a century's time. In what way do you see the country memorializing her? Ceremonies began as early as tomorrow, Easter Sunday, as understandably thousands, if not millions, will be coming out to see her coffin pass through. Can you paint a picture on what our expectations should be?

SEWARD: Well, she died at Royal Lodge, which is her home in Windsor Great Park that she shared with her husband, the late King. She will probably be taken from Royal Lodge to London where she will lie in state at Westminster Hall.

She will be taken from Royal Lodge to London and lie in state at Westminster Hall, and then there will be a great state funeral, the likes of which many people won't remember ever having seen before, and I should think the time span will probably be about a week.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you very much, Ingrid Seward, biographer of "Queen Mum" for joining us this afternoon. We are continuing to watch as developments ensue. We'd like to bring in our own CNN Richard Quest who is in London, who is closely watching the reaction there to the news of the death of queen mum -- Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good evening from London. The news is not an hour old. I can tell you that on my way into the office I, of course, was alerted of the announcement that was about to be made by Buckingham Palace, and on the way in, some people had started to hear. Small anecdotes make the story to some extent.

A taxi driver that brought me in here, I managed to flag a cab down, the taxi driver had heard about it and was already talking about it. The people on the streets of London are starting to hear about it. It's only just some 20 past six in the evening in the U.K., so people are getting ready to go out for what's a long bank holiday, Easter weekend, as the announcement was made.

Let me recap the details that we know about so far. Buckingham Palace, within the last hour, has announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, has died at the age of 101. Her daughter, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, herself 75 years old, was at her bedside.

The death happened at the Royal Lodge on the Windsor Great Park, the queen mother's home to the west of London. All we know is that she died peacefully in her sleep at 3:15 in the afternoon. That's just some three hours ago.

Buckingham Palace clearly wanted to make sure that everything was in order, no rushed, hurried announcements, none of the frantic panic that was seen after Diana, Princess of Wales died in that Paris car crash. Instead, they wanted an entirely orderly announcement. The world correspondents were informed and things took their toll.

The queen mother will be sorely mourned in Britain, much more so than for example with the case of Princess Margaret, her younger daughter who died just two months ago. Other members of the Royal Family will be making their way to London, particularly Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. The Prince, along with his sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, had only just started a holiday in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a skiing holiday.

The pictures you're seeing now, of course, are of the queen mother in her more healthy days. She was always the favorite Royal to some extent, particularly at these major events, when the queen mother would appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, or indeed here as she's leaving hospital after one of her recent visits.

The queen mother only recently, of course, wasn't seen at the funeral of Princess Margaret. There was only a short picture of her taken as she drove away. One of the big events in the Royal calendar in London was always the queen mother's birthday. Outside Clarence House, pretty much as you can see in these pictures, where she will be there to receive the flowers and good wishes of the people, and often many thousands of people would turn out to see the queen mother.

So, recapping the headline, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowslines (ph) who married in 1923 Prince Albert, subsequently to become George VI. She became Elizabeth the queen mother upon his death, and has for the last 50 years, has been a fundamental part of British Royal life. Elizabeth the queen mother has died, age 101. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now, Richard, you said Queen Elizabeth was at her mother's bedside. Had Queen Elizabeth been holding vigil so to speak, since so many had been expecting that the worst might be coming at any day now?

QUEST: I would say that's putting it too strongly in terms of holding vigil. Obviously, I mean you know let's not mince words, anyone of 101, who has had a chest infection and a bad cough that has been unable to shake it and remember just before Margaret's funeral, the queen mother did slip at her rooms at Windsor, at the Royal Lodge, and suffered a gash to her arm.

In only this last week in the British papers, there has been a report that the queen mother was not just having failing eyesight, but that the queen mother had, in fact, gone blind. So, I suspect you know that no great surprise as such and the queen will have been informed.

But let's not forget the queen, I mean the queen did go on a recent major trip. She went to, she went to Jamaica. She went to New Zealand, of course, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the very important meeting that the queen attended, already delayed from September the 11th.

So, the queen probably knew that now was the time to be at Windsor. She'd obviously been warned that the end was nigh for her mother. You know, Fredricka it's hard in some ways to express to you how the queen mother will be missed.

Perhaps I can give you one story that is always said in this country that sums up the life of the queen mother. The queen mother when she was, of course, the consort and the queen to King George VI, during the second World War, they used to spend the nights at Windsor for safety, coming back into London during the day to be with the people.

And on one of those nights in the second World War, Buckingham Palace was bombed. The queen mother came to the Palace. She looked at it and she said to the reporters, "now I can look the East End in the eye" a reference, of course, to London's East End, which had been so badly bombed during the Battle of Britain.

It's those sorts of anecdotes. In fact, she was well known for liking a drink. She was far from being ostentatious. She liked to drink a gin and tonic and was well known for that at Clarence House, and she liked everybody else to have a drink with her.

Fredricka, there will be mourning in London. It's just half past six in the evening. It's a Saturday evening. People are getting ready to go out and about. The news is starting to spread that the queen mother had died, age 101.

WHITFIELD: Richard, it's funny to hear that even though she was a crown jewel of the royal family, that so many commoners found that she was not ostentatious and that is one of the reasons, one of the many reasons why they loved her so much.

QUEST: Oh, do not forget this was a woman for whom tradition, royalty, doing the right thing was paramount. Even a scandal some 20 years ago concerning one of her relatives that had been put into a care for mentally handicapped people, even that didn't dent the love that the people had for the queen mother.

She never put a foot wrong. She believed very much like her daughter, the current queen, that this was a job for life. This was their responsibility, their duty. To some people, you know, it would be that (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and right the way through, she always had that extra time.

Now, nobody should be fooled. She wasn't one of the common people. She didn't aspire to be the people's princess in the way for example that Diana aspired in that fashion, or in the way in which, for example, the royal family of the Netherlands or Sweden or some of the other European royal families want to make it more common folk, common like.

No, the queen mother was royal right the way through, but she knew that the future of the House of Windsor, that the future of their ability to reign on the throne depended on the love of the people, or the people at least respecting it, and she was a hard woman.

I mean, she was well known for being very tough and many people said, of course, that a lot of the problems that came later in the day with Diana in terms of Diana's illness or bulimia, Diana's anorexia, all came about because the queen mother maybe didn't train Diana properly for royalty in those days -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you very much, Richard Quest from London for your insight and helping us to remember a remarkable woman, 101 years old. Queen Elizabeth II has died in her sleep at approximately 3:15 London time earlier today. And just now, we're hearing from people in London who are starting to react to her death. Tomorrow, ceremonies begin as the public comes out to see the passing of her coffin through the streets.




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