Heritage

The Extravagant Life of Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Her costly lifestyle led to an unbelievable debt of £7 million.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother lived a relatively quiet life. Not much was known about her other than basic facts (such as her birth date and her being the wife of King George VI) and her love for horses and fishing (nothing out of the ordinary for a member of the royal family).

After her death, however, more details about her life were revealed. She was known as a “party queen” by those in her inner circles, and she did have a taste for the finer things in life.

She had four homes.

Following the death of her husband King George VI in 1952, the Queen Mother moved to Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park and Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland, where she and her husband had lived prior to his accession to the throne. She also lived at Clarence House in London and the Castle of Mey in Caithness, Scotland, which she bought months after her husband’s death.

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She had a staff of around 80.


The Queen Mother had pages, butlers, gardeners, maids, footmen, housekeepers, equerries, chefs, dressers, and chauffeurs in her employ. She even reportedly had an old watchman sit outside her bedroom door with a lamp while she slept.

She loved throwing house parties.

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There was nothing homey or intimate about these gatherings that happened very often. The menu usually included dishes such as souffles, lobster croquettes, rare lamb, potatoes and peas from Windsor, raspberries with Jersey cream, and meringue with black cherries in liqueur. Her guests were also served the finest liquor, most notably vintage Krug Champagne and pink Champagne from Veuve Clicquot.

She held parties at her various homes at different times of the year: racing parties at Royal Lodge, fishing parties at Birkhall, weekend parties at the Castle of Mey in August, and then back at Birkhall in September.

Her wardrobe was filled with expensive pieces.

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She had a penchant for hats with real ostrich feathers; the feathers alone cost £100 (considered expensive in the 1960s). She also had a habit of wearing similar outfits in different shades within the same day, so you can imagine how large her wardrobe was.

She had a dozen racing horses.

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She spent around £1 million annually on her expensive hobby. Though her horses won races, the prize money was nothing compared to the cost of maintaining each horse.

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She owed the bank £7 million then.

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Coutts, the royal bankers, would make an effort to remind her of her building debt by sending one of its officials to personally deliver her account passbook every quarter. The record contained the details of every check she’d written.

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Paulina Paras
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