Queen Mother Sadly Watched Scandals

The Queen Mother Elizabeth, a symbol of stability and old-style royalty, watched with sadness the scandals that swamped the royal family in her later years.

Miserable royal marriages, divorces and infidelities dominated British tabloid newspaper headlines in the 1990s. Many began to question the future of the monarchy as the royal family was battered by successive scandals.

In public, at least, the Queen Mother appeared to rise above the difficulties, serene in her pastel dresses, hats and pearls — a smiling symbol of unity and continuity. She never commented publicly on the divorces and other scandals, but aides said the Queen Mother believed that a marriage should last for life.

The Queen Mother and her husband King George VI were themselves propelled to the throne by a royal romantic scandal.

The couple, then the Duke and Duchess of York, were unexpectedly made king and queen after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, gave up the throne in 1936 to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

The new queen, according to most biographers, found it hard to forgive Wallis Simpson and believed the stress of reigning shortened her husband's life. He died in 1952 from lung cancer at the age of 56.

The Queen Mother saw her first grandchild divorce in 1992. After 18 years of marriage, Princess Anne and her husband Mark Phillips divorced.

That same year, Prince Charles separated from Princess Diana after 11 years of marriage.

Charles and Diana's marriage troubles were chronicled in newspapers, books and through tit-for-tat television interviews by Charles and Diana. The heir to the throne returned to a former companion, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Many royal observers thought that Prince Charles would avoid ending his marriage during the lifetime of his beloved grandmother. But with the revelations becoming ever more sordid, the couple eventually divorced in 1996. Diana was killed in 1997 in a car crash in Paris.

The Queen Mother's second grandson, Prince Andrew, also divorced in 1996, after six years of marriage to Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

The Queen Mother was reported to have been "deeply upset" by the publication of holiday photographs of the duchess having her toes sucked.