Early Portraits of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who later became the “Queen Mum” of Britain

This beautiful lady was born Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon on August 4, 1900.  She became The Duchess of York in 1923 when she married the persistent Prince Albert aka “Bertie.”  She rose to become Queen Elizabeth in 1936 when her husband ascended to the British throne as King George VI.  After her husband’s death in 1952, she became Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.  She died at age 102 on March 30, 2002.

She has been sketched, drawn, painted, and photographed many times.  These images are from her life before she became Queen Elizabeth.


The de Laszlo Portraits

Elizabeth, The Duchess of York – 1925.  By de Laszlo.  RCT © 2015, HM Queen Elizabeth II

The above portrait is an oil painting of The Duchess of York by Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo (1879-1937).  It was commissioned by her mother, The Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, in 1925.

The Countess asked de László to make a portrait of Elizabeth, anticipating a sketch: “She felt that her daughter was so young that a head alone would not typify her and wanted her figure, even if described by only a few strokes. She also told him that she was very anxious that the portrait should be under life-size, to emphasize her small but graceful figure. De László carried out these wishes, but instead of a sketch he painted a finished portrait of Her Royal Highness.” 1


Elizabeth, The Duchess of York – 1931.  By de Laszlo.  RCT © 2015, HM Queen Elizabeth II.

In July 1931, de Laszlo painted a less formal oil portrait of Elizabeth, The Duchess of York, wearing a hat.  De Laslo referred to these less detailed portraits as “sketches” and charged less for them.

In a “Times Magazine” article, de Laszlo requested from his clients that:

 “…it is advisable to have a firm and masterful face if you are a man, an expression of graciously patrician elegance if you are a woman. This will make it simpler for Painter de Laszlo to inject these qualities into his portraiture, but they are by no means the only requirement for being a de Laszlo subject.

“You will also need $14,000 if you want a really first-rate product, full-length, executed with all the Sargentesque splendor at his command. For $10,000 you can have a neat three-quarter-length affair, much on the order of the Hoover portrait which de Laszlo finished last week. For $3,000 he may consent to do a sketch, a little like the one of Mrs. Hoover, warm, sympathetic and technically graceful, but without much detail. Naturally, these qualifications are likely to belong to notables.” 2



The Duke and Duchess of York.    1931.    By de Laszlo.    RCT © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth II.

After admiring de Laszlo’s sketch of Elizabeth wearing a hat, The Duke of York requested a matching pair of three-quarter-length portraits in oil of the Duke and Duchess of York.


Additionally, in 1935, a portrait of the young Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, was completed.  It’s said to have been the Duchess’s favorite portrait of her.


Princess Elizabeth of York.  1933.  By de Laszlo.  RCT  © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth.


The Mabel Hankey portraits

Mabel Hankey was another portrait artist of the time.  She specialized in miniature portraits.  “Mabel Hankey was born in Bath, the daughter of the professional artist Henry Eddington Hobson. She became the first wife of the painter William Lee Hankey, and exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Miniature Society, the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Academy.”3


Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. 1907.  Miniature portrait by Mabel Hankey.  RCT © 2015  HM Queen Elizabeth

A young Lady Elizabeth was painted by Mabel Hankey first in 1907, when Elizabeth was 7 years old (above).  This miniature  (37.8 x 27.2 cm) portrait is a watercolor.


Elizabeth, The Duchess of York.  1917.  Miniature portrait by Mabel Hankey.  RCT © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth II

A delicate and elegant Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was again painted in miniature by Mabel Hankey in 1917 (above).  It is in a finely wrought frame of gold and silver, set with sapphires, and with a jeweled crown at the top. This beautiful frame was the work of Mr. Catchpole and Mr. Williams, the Oxford Street Jewelers.  


This miniature  portrait was a wedding gift to Prince Albert, Duke of York, from his future mother-in-law, Lady Strathmore.


The James Peter Quinn portrait

In 1931,  Australian artist James Peter Quinn captured Elizabeth, the Duchess of York in the portrait below.  It was just 5 years before 1936 – The Year of The Three Kings.  The year in which King George V died, King Edward VIII abdicated, and King George VI ascended the throne.  The year in which Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, would become Queen.

Elizabeth, Duchess of York.  1931.  By James Peter Quinn.  RCT © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth



The Sir John St.Helier Lander portraits


John St. Helier Lander was born in Jersey, in the Channel Islands of England.  He was given his first paint kit by Lillie Langtry, a famous beauty, actress, and mistress of the Prince of Wales who became King Edward VII.  He went on to paint many royals, aristocrats, and military leaders.  Sir Lander painted or sketched Elizabeth at at least three important times in her life:  her engagement, her wedding, and her coronation.

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Elizabeth, The Duchess of York.  By sir John St. Hellier Lander.  RCT @ 2015 HM The Queen 


A portrait of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at the time of her wedding to HRH The Duke of York (Later King George VI) by Sir John St.Hellier Lander.  1923.  RCT © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth II.




Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth.  1937.  By John Helier Lander.  RCT © 2015 HM Queen Elizabeth II.






  1. Rutter, Owen, Portrait of a Painter, London, 1939, pp. 358
  2. Times Magazine, Volume XIX Number 4.  january 25, 1932, pp. 26-28.  Information courtesy of JPP Gallery
  3. Royal Collection Trust


A Special Thanks to the following sources:

De Laszlo Catalogue Raisonne, JPP Gallery, NPG National Portrait Gallery, The Royal Collection Trust,  The Modernist Journals Project, Time Magazine, BBC, Wikipedia.


Copyright:  © 2015, Lady Elucidation


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