Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Queen at 90: birthplace of a monarch

Queens and Kings are born in palaces and castles, their arrivals proclaimed across the lands they will one day rule by heralds, the lighting of bonfires and the ringing of bells. That's what the storybooks tell us and in many cases it is true. But the baby girl who would go on to make history by becoming Britain's longest reigning monarch made her debut in rather more low key surroundings. Elizabeth II, Queen of England, was born at her grandad's London house.

Elizabeth II as a toddler - her story began in a London house that is now part of royal history
(photo Time magazine cover in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be fair, 17 Bruton Street isn't any old London house. It's in the heart of Mayfair, that wealthy and well to do part of London that is still most sought after on the Monopoly board,and the grandad in question was the Earl of Strathmore. His London home had become famous three years earlier when his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, walked through its door and into history as she left her mum and dad's London pad to marry Albert, Duke of York, second son of King George V.

As she and Albert waited for the birth of their first baby, they moved in with her parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore (sound at all familiar?) and it was at 17 Bruton Street that their daughter was delivered at 2.40am on April 21st 1926. The Home Secretary was in the house as tradition dictated as the Royal Family celebrated the safe arrival of a baby princess. She was named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary and was third in line to the throne. But no one expected her to rule one day.

Baby Elizabeth was christened at Buckingham Palace on May 29th the same year and she was still living with her mum's parents at the time so was carried through the door of 17 Bruton Street for the waiting crowds to get their first glimpse of her.  And there were crowds. Although she was heir of the spare, royal baby mania had taken hold and the birth of this princess was a big event.

That turned out to be true in more ways than one. As the latest #HM90facts tweet from the British Monarchy account reminds us, it is the birthplace of the Queen. Elizabeth would become heir to the throne in 1936 on the Abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, and Queen in 1952 on the death of her father, George VI.

The house in Bruton Street where she was born is gone now. There is a very well reviewed restaurant, Hakkasan, on the spot and in 2012 a plaque was put up commemorating its place in royal history.

The plaque put up in 2012, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, to mark the place where she was born in 1926
(photo By Spudgun67 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

For 17 Bruton Street is the house that became historic quite by accident and the place where one of the most famous royal stories of all began.

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