The claim in a book by Lady Colin Campbell that a domestic help, a French cook with the name Marguerite Rodiere, was the mother of Queen Mother Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, is causing controversy in the U.K.
The book titled The Queen Mother, The untold story of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, Who became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, will go on sale next month. The Telegraph reports Lady Colin wrote that the family's French cook, Rodiere, gave birth to the Queen Mother in an arrangement that was "an early version of surrogacy." According to Lady Colin, the practice was not unusual among British upper classes.
The Queen Mother was born in August 1900, but the exact date of her birth is disputed. She was the fourth daughter of Lord Glamis, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It is also not certain whether she was born in the back of a London ambulance or the family home, St. Paul's Waldenbury, in Hertfordshire.
The Telegraph reports Lady Colin, in her book, makes the startling claim: "For the fact is, royal and aristocratic circles had been alight for decades with the story that Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, while undoubtedly the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was not the child of his wife Cecilia, nor was her younger brother David, born nearly two years after her on 2nd May, 1902. The two Benjamins, as they were known in the Bowes Lyon family were supposedly the children of Marguerite Rodiere, an attractive and pleasant Frenchwoman who had been the cook at St Paul’s Waldenbury and is meant to have provided Lord and Lady Glamis with the two children they so yearned for after Cecilia was forbidden by her doctors from producing any more progeny. Hence the nickname of Cookie, which the Duke and Duchess of Windsor took care to promulgate throughout international society once Elizabeth proved herself to be their most formidable enemy."
A fact about the Queen Mother that may have fueled speculations about her birth was the fact that she had a French middle name, Marguerite. The author claimed that the truth about the Queen Mother's birth was known to her brother-in-law, David. Daily Mail reports she wrote: "As King Edward VIII, David had access to all the information about Elizabeth’s secret which was not so secret in aristocratic and royal circles. When he discovered, to his horror, that Elizabeth was actively scheming with his own courtiers to undermine his position as king and prevent him from marrying the woman he loved, he used the wealth of access at his disposal to circumvent his own private and deputy private secretaries and obtain sight of the documents, which confirmed that Elizabeth had been born, not of 4th August as supposed, but on 3rd August at St Paul’s Waldenbury to Marguerite Rodiere."
Lady Colin explained that the Queen Mother's nickname "Cookie" came from the fact that she was born to her family's French cook. She wrote: "For those who asked, as I did when I was a late teenager, why she was being called by that nickname, there was always a member of the Windsor circle willing and able to recount how the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Empress of India, Queen of Canada, Australia, etc,etc, was not even legitimate, but the daughter of the 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and St Paul’s Waldenbury cook, Mademoiselle Marguerite Rodiere. Whether this was indeed the case, none of us will ever know definitively unless DNA studies are done on Elizabeth and Cecilia to establish whether they shared a genetic link."
This is not the first time a book speculates on the parentage of the Queen Mother. Daily Mail reports that a U.S. author Kitty Kelley, in her book published in 1997 and titled The Royals, suggested that the Queen Mother was the daughter of a Welsh maid in the family’s castle in Scotland.
Lady Colin's story has provoked furious reactions from "royal experts." Daily Mail reports Hugo Vickers, an expert in royal affairs, said: "It is exactly ten years to the day that the Queen Mother died and I do not think it very nice at all to be promulgating these kind of theories at this time, particularly when the Queen has been celebrating her much loved mother’s life at Windsor today. Lady Colin Campbell has been pushing this bizarre theory for some time in conversations etc. and I have to say I think it is complete nonsense. You only have to look at pictures of the Queen Mother and her mother to see that they are related."
Royal author Michael Thornton, also commented: "I suppose that Georgie Campbell, whom I have known for many years, was faced with the same difficulty confronting all biographers of the Queen Mother: namely that everything of importance has already been said, leaving it difficult to find anything new to say. But I have to say that I utterly disbelieve this claim on her part, and without DNA evidence to support it, there is absolutely no way now of proving it. I think it is unfortunate to publish this allegation in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. It is bound to distress the Queen, and most particularly the Prince of Wales, who was devoted to his grandmother."
The Telegraph reports that publication of extracts of the book comes as the Queen, on Friday, held a service of remembrance at St. George's Chapel marking the 10th anniversary of the Queen Mother's death. The service, according to Daily Mail, was attended by senior members of the Royal Family.
Thornton dismisses Lady Colin's theory: "It actually doesn’t make any sense. I did investigate all these rumors while I was researching Royal Feud, and I found absolutely no hard evidence whatever to support them."