The Bowes and The Royal Family

Today, 15th of February 2018, marks an important date at The Bowes Museum as we are getting ready to receive the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales.

Although we have had the privilege to receive a very private visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh in the early ’90’s, it was Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother that had a very special relationship with the Bowes family and visited The Bowes Museum on many occasions.

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H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visiting The Bowes Museum in 1956

The Bowes family and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

The Bowes were one of the most ancient families of County Durham. Their ancestral home was Streatlam Castle, near Barnard Castle. In 1767 the family heiress, Mary Eleanor Bowes, married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, of Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland. Their son the 10th Earl resided at the Bowes family home of Streatlam Castle and fell in love with a village girl, Mary Millner, who gave birth to John Bowes, founder of the Bowes Museum, in 1811.

Though the 10th Earl married Mary Millner on the day before his death in 1820, a court decided that the infant John Bowes could inherit only the Bowes family estates in England as his father had not resided in Scotland. The Scottish estates and title passed to the 10th Earl’s brother, who became the 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and direct ancestor of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, daughter of the 14th Earl and future wife of King George VI. They married in 1923. The surname ‘Bowes Lyon’ came into existence after John Bowes’s death in 1885, when the Bowes family estates in England were re-united with the Lyon estates in Scotland.

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H. M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother watching the Silver Swan, 1969

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Bowes Museum

 

H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother must have known The Bowes Museum as a child, when family holidays were spent at nearby Streatlam Castle. She maintained a constant interest in the Museum throughout her life. She supported the Friends of The Bowes Museum on their foundation in 1949 and became their Patron in 1962.

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H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visiting The Bowes Museum in 1976

She visited publicly on five occasions: in 1956, to witness the transfer of trusteeship of the Museum to Durham County Council; in 1969, on the occasion of the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Museum; in 1976, to open a gallery of costume named in her honour; in 1982, to view the two paintings by Canaletto during an appeal for their purchase that are now part of the Fine Art Collection at The Bowes Museum; and in 1992, on the occasion of the centenary of opening of the Museum, to open an exhibition of her costume entitled ‘Royal Style’ which drew record visitor numbers of 120,000. This was the first exhibition to be devoted to The Queen Mother’s Wardrobe, indeed any Royal Wardrobe, and due entirely to Her Majesty’s generosity.

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H. M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother viewing a painting by Canaletto, 1982
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H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother watching the Silver Swan, 1992

 

H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visiting in 1976

 

*Blogpost image portraits the H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother with Her grandson, H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

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