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House of Windsor

Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom (1900-2002)

Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was the daughter of the future Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She was descended from the Royal House of Scotland and married the Duke of York, second son of King George V, in 1923. They had two daughters Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret. Following the death of King George V and the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, the Duke and Duchess of York succeeded as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth's maternal grandmother lived in Florence and, in her childhood, she visited that city frequently. Her exposure to early Renaissance sculptors such as Donatello may have influenced an early sculpture commission by Arthur Walker (RCIN 95575), showing her with her elder daughter.

A few short years after Elizabeth became Queen, the nation was at war. During the Second World War, Queen Elizabeth played a key role in maintaining the nation’s morale and fighting spirit, particularly by visiting heavily bombed areas of London. In 1941, having seen an exhibition of paintings at the National Gallery, recording key buildings at risk of bombing, Queen Elizabeth commissioned several views of Windsor Castle by the British artist, John Piper. In total, he painted 26 watercolours of the castle between 1941-2, their sombre tones suggestive of the threats of war.

As with many of her predecessors, her additions to the collection comprised acquisitions, commissions and diplomatic gifts. Queen Elizabeth enjoyed top-quality twentieth-century decorative arts, such as this work by Fabergé (RCIN 50706). Among other diplomatic gifts, the French presented her with a Lalique table service in 1938 and the President of the New York World's Fair commemorated a visit in 1939 with a Cartier desk clock. Queen Elizabeth also took an interest in acquiring works with a connection to the British royal family, for example the extraordinary James II Cabinet. The splendid Chelsea porcelain service, made for George III and Queen Charlotte but given away to Charlotte's elder brother, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, was presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1947, for her Silver Wedding anniversary (RCIN 5000031).

Queen Elizabeth was also a keen patron of twentieth-century British art, and her collection included works by Augustus John, Walter Sickert, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland. Her patronage of British art was viewed as patriotic and supportive of the nation's painters but she also showed an interest in painterly style and evocative subject matter such as this Paul Nash work. She acquired for her private collection, a work by Claude Monet, which also demonstrates an interest in this less-finished, sketch-like quality characteristic of the Impressionist group.

After King George VI's death, Clarence House became Queen Elizabeth's London home and was where she displayed much of her collection. In 1953 she also bought and later restored the Castle of Mey on the north coast of Scotland.

Consort of King George VI


The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.