National monument to the Queen Mother unveiled by the Queen
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, dressed in the flowing robes of a Garter knight, with a hint of a smile on her face, has been reunited in The Mall with her husband George VI.
The national memorial to the Queen Mother, which was unveiled by the Queen yesterday in the presence of three generations of the Royal Family, depicts her at 51 which was her age when her husband died.
The towering 9ft 6in monument stands below the equally imposing sculpture of George VI whose death in 1952 brought the Queen to the throne. Both statues are gazing in the direction of Buckingham Palace.
The Prince of Wales, the driving force behind the £2 million tribute, made a short but emotional speech in which he paid tribute to his "darling" grandmother, "adored" Queen Mother, "beloved" mother, grandmother, aunt and employer.
"At long last my grandparents are reunited in this joint symbol, which in particular reminds us of all they stood for and meant to so many during the darkest days this country has ever faced," he said.
"Today we remember them both with joy mingled with sadness, but also intense gratitude for the role they performed with such consummate grace and inspiration."
For the Queen the ceremony was also a poignant occasion not just because of the memories stirred of her mother, who died in 2002, but because she also unveiled the statue of her father in 1955 three years after his death at the age of 56.
The statue, whose traditional design was chosen by a committee chaired by the Prince of Wales, is flanked by bronze reliefs which showed the Queen Mother during the second world war when she earned the love and admiration of the people by refusing to leave London with her children.
The centrepiece depicts her holding her hand out to a child as she and the king meet families made homeless by bombing raids. Even the bombing of Buckingham Palace failed to sap her legendary spirit. "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face," she said at the time. Another frieze shows her at the races at Ascot, a third relaxing in her garden at the Castle of Mey in Caithness with two of her Corgis.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Royal, Princes William and Harry, and members of the Queen Mother's family attended the unveiling ceremony alongside Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister. The Duchess of Kent, who has retreated from official duties, made a rare public appearance.
In his speech the Prince of Wales said: "All of us gathered here today will, I know, miss my darling grandmother's vitality, her interest in the lives of others, her unbounded courage and determination that allowed her incredibly to continue her official life to the age of very nearly 102, her perceptive wisdom, her calm in the face of all adversity, her steadfast belief in the British people and, above all, her irresistible, irrepressible sense of mischievous humour. These are the qualities and characteristics we recall today with love, pride and thanksgiving."
The statue, which took three years to complete, was sculpted by Philip Jackson who created the equestrian statue of the Queen in Windsor Great Park for her Golden Jubilee. He spent hours in the archive at Windsor Castle poring over old photographs of the Queen Mother who he met shortly before her death.
"She was very charming and although I did not know that I would later work on this project it turned out to be an extremely useful meeting. She was so full of fun at the age of 101 I realised she had always been the life and soul of the party," he said.
The Royal Family, bruised by the controversy over the water fountain tribute for Diana, Princess of Wales, wanted a traditional design for the Queen Mother in keeping with the statue of George VI which was sculpted by William McMillan.Mr Jackson said: "When you look at the photographs of the King and the then Queen together he was reticent while she was the effervescent one. Although they are both wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter, hers are blowing in the wind to reflect her energy and liveliness."