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Queen Mother Dies

Aired March 30, 2002 - 17:23   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Mourners are gathering outside Buckingham Palace in London and at Windsor Castle. They have come to pay tribute to the most beloved member of Britain's royal family, the queen mother. She died in her sleep today at the age of 101. CNN's Richard Quest joins us now from Buckingham Palace.

Richard, all day long I've been watching people as they've been placing flowers and tokens of love out there at Buckingham Palace. I'm wondering if you've had a chance to talk to any of these people.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have and what they are saying is that this is just one of the places they felt they had to come on this very sad evening. It's people of all ages. We haven't seen large numbers of people. I would say Buckingham Palace, just behind me, what we did see was quite a few people standing on the Victorian Monument looking at the Palace and there were people by the gates just over to my right is where they've been placing the flowers. Notes like; "Goodbye to our favorite grandmother," "Rest in peace, you've earned it." And that's very much, Carol, the mood of the nation and the people that are making their way down.

Let me bring you up to date with a few things that have happened in the last hour or so. President and Mrs. Bush have released a statement saying they are very saddened by the queen mother's death. And the British Parliament, which has just gone into recess for the Easter break, will be recalled sometime next week. Negotiations are taking place about exactly what time, when and how.

We know that tomorrow the queen mother's coffin will be taken to one of the royal chapels at Windsor Castle and then later next week it will be brought back to the capital. She will be taken to probably Westminster Hall, just about a half a mile or so from where I'm standing. And that will give everybody -- that will give ordinary people, perhaps a chance.

At the moment in London, Carol, let me put it -- the queen mother's private residence just up the road here, Clarence House. There are a few crowds gathering over here. The flags are flying at half-mast. Not the royal standard. That never flies at half-mast. There is always a monarch on the throne, but the Union Jack above -- behind me at Buckingham Palace is at half-mast. That's the scene here in London this evening. Somber. People are taking the time to come and remember the queen mother and that no doubt we'll see more people in the days ahead. LIN: No doubt. Thank you very much, Richard Quest, reporting live right near Buckingham Palace.

Obviously, the British royal family has lost not only a very dear family member, but also someone who did much to prop up a sometimes sagging royal image with the British public. To take a look at the effects the queen mother's death could have, we are joined from Salisbury, England by Harold Brooks-Baker from Burkes Peerage. Good evening sir. Thanks for joining us. What sort of impact do you think the queen mother's death is going to have on the royal family?

HAROLD BROOKS-BAKER, BURKES PEERAGE: Well, I think to say a great one would be putting it very mildly. There is no question in my mind that the House of Windsor would have disappeared, or certainly might have disappeared, if it hadn't been for the queen mother. Indeed, perhaps without the queen mother to Winston Churchill Great Britain would have disappeared under the Nazi bomb that destroyed so much of London. Bombs even hit Buckingham Palace, of course the East End of the area, St. Paul's Cathedral.

But the queen mother refused to go into exile. Her husband, George VI, agreed with her and refused to go into exile the way most monarchs did in Europe in those days. And she has been a symbol of everything that is important to Great Britain, I think to the free world and indeed to the monarchy and the royal family every since. The royal family has been through a very difficult time from a public relations point of view in the last few years. Lots of divorces, lots of difficulties, misunderstandings and you cannot say, unfortunately, the House of Windsor is as secure as it used to be. But it's a lot more secure than it was two or three years ago.

LIN: Mr. Brooks-Baker, obviously you are talking to an American audience right now and obviously you are talking to an American, and I have to ask you -- with her gone now, how does that change the dynamic within the royal family? I mean, was she the one standing in the way from Prince Charles marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles? Was she the one who influenced the marriage of her grandson and the relationships that followed? And why is it that she couldn't control or influence this public relations nightmare that the royal family has had to juggle over the last decade?

BROOKS-BAKER: Well, I think that if the queen mother made one mistake in her life, and I don't think that she made many, it would have been to sanction, to give her affirmation and approval to the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. No doubt Lady Diana Spencer was one of the most loved people in the world. She was a person of great talent and charm but it was, as you know, a very sad marriage. It was she, the queen mother, and the grandmother of Lady Spencer, Lady Fermoit (ph), who was a great instigators of this marriage. Something that never should have happened, and there were many clues to why it should have been avoided. Why it should never have happened in the early days.

LIN: So do you think she, as part of her legacy or her dying wishes, has instructed Charles on how to conduct his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles and whether they should marry or not ... BROOKS-BAKER: No, I think that her liberal and compassionate ways -- and I met the queen mother many times, would have precluded her from giving that kind of dictation. She was a strong woman, but she was an immensely fair, kind and understanding human being. She certainly would not have told Prince Charles not to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles.

LIN: Does this in any way clear the possibility that he can marry her now?

BROOKS-BAKER: No, it had nothing -- the fact that he is not married has nothing whatsoever to do with the queen mother. It has to do with the Church of England. The Church of England does not officially marry divorced people, and Camilla Parker-Bowles is divorced. Of course, Prince Charles is divorced, but his wife sadly is no longer here, so that doesn't count. And since he will be, when he becomes king, head of the Church of England, it will be impossible, like his assistant, to run off to the Church of Scotland and get married.

So he's caught. Until the Church of England changes its rules, which it probably will in the next few years, maybe even in the next year, he cannot marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, he must remain with her as her escort and she has to remain virtually as his mistress, which in this day and age seems rather strange.

LIN: OK. All right. Thank you very much, Harold Brooks-Baker, for sharing a bit of that legacy and a bit of, well, a personal story of the royal family. Kind of interesting that the queen mum didn't realize that when she married Prince Albert in the 1920's that she'd actually ever become queen.




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