Could the Queen Mother really have been the daughter of a French cook?

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It’s amazing what you learn from popular culture.  Up until the recent series of ‘I’m a celebrity…’ I had never heard of Lady Colin Campbell, a writer who married into (and divorced out of) the British aristocracy and went on to pen ‘tell all’ books about Diana and the Queen Mother.

Until recently I had never heard her theory that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (better known to us as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) was not the daughter of her legal mother, but in fact the result of a ‘surrogacy’ arrangement between her father, the future Earl of Strathmore and Kingmore, and Marguerite Rodiere, a French cook who worked at one of their residences.

It’s an absurd theory.  What makes me really angry is that Lady Colin must be aware of that.

The story goes that after eight successful pregnancies, Celia, Lady Glamis (the future Countess) was unable to bear any more children.  Therefore, in an early version of surrogacy, they approached a member of their household to help them get two further children by proxy: Elizabeth and her little brother David.  The following arguments are given in evidence:

  • The Queen Mother’s middle name was Marguerite – a sure sign (apparently) of her real parentage
  • The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the Queen Mother’s brother and sister-in-law) used to refer to her behind her back as ‘cookie,’ an innuendo as to her origin
  • The story is apparently ‘widely known’ in aristocratic circles

None of this even begins to stack up.  Firstly, choosing a middle name is not usually seen as a practice of identifying maternity.  It might well be that the Strathmores were fond of their cook and decided to honour her in their daughter’s name, or possibly more likely, through her they became aware of the name and just decided they liked it.  It could of course, just be a coincidence.

The snub of the Windsors also adds no weight to this case.  They are widely understood to have used this nickname because the then Duchess of York, with her soft and plump appearance, reminded them of a Scottish Cook.  More than anything else, they were just looking to be derogatory.

As to whether this story was ‘doing the rounds’ in aristocratic circles, I cannot say.  I do not myself mix in them.  However, I would caution everyone to be wary of any historian who makes an argument based on sources that very few people have access to.  Just because something happens to be the subject of gossip doesn’t make it true; gossip often is, after all, exactly that!

Anyway, this theory begs some even more obvious questions.  After bearing eight healthy children, would the couple really be so desperate to have another two that they would go to such extremes?  Would the proud and high-born coupling of Bowes-Lyon and Cavendish really be so prepared to contaminate their blood line?

The real reason this suggestion is so ludicrous, is the striking physical resemblance between Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and her own mother.  While I appreciate that this isn’t the most scientific approach in the world, let’s just stand back a minute and take a look at some pictures.  I genuinely don’t believe anyone can look at these pictures and honestly take alternative theories about the Queen Mother’s parentage seriously.  I can only conclude that Lady Colin Campbell’s desire to sell books far out weighted her determination to tell the truth.

This makes me very angry indeed.

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Okay geeks…what do you think?  Am I being too harsh?  Should I give Lady C the benefit of the doubt?  Or are you as angry about this as I am?