Shelved Dolls: Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Also Known As ‘Cake’

queen elizabeth

It is actually shocking that it took me this long to write this Shelved Doll, because I think Elizabeth The Queen Mother, or “Cake” as she was known to her friends, is one of my favorite women of the past hundred years. (I plan to call her Cake for the rest of this piece, so just be ready; it’s because I have decided we’re close personal pals.) She’s not probably someone whom a ton of people who are not me obsess over. For instance, Colin Firth, who played King George VI in The King’s Speech, didn’t even know that George’s wife, played by Helena Bonham Carter, was the modern day Queen Mother.

My affection for her may seem surprising because generally the women I fall in love with lived life on a very grand scale. They’re pretty appetitive. For instance, I adore Madame Pompadour because she was very smart, but I also admire her because she stalked King Louis XV through the forest to make him fall in love with her. I love Josephine Baker because of . . . everything. Because she was a spy for France during World War II in addition to being a naked dancer who got her start in the Harlem Renaissance and then adopted 700 children. ( Or 10? I think it was 10.)

You would probably expect that if I were to side with anyone from this period of English history it would be Wallis Simpson, for whom George’s older brother, Edward, abdicated the throne in order to marry. Wallis did weird sex stuff and was maybe a hermaphrodite and thought that “no woman can be too rich or too thin.” She was a snazzy dresser and sounds like a piece of work; generally, in movies, this is how she is portrayed in contrast to my dear friend Cake.

In The King’s Speech, which is really about Bertie (who was Prince Albert before he became King George) and Cake, Wallis Simpson reclines super glamorously in a black evening gown while Bertie becomes King. In W.E. I feel whoever did the costumes made sure that Wallis always wore something fabulous, while Elizabeth was dressed in the most deliberately unflattering way possible. And this is to say nothing of Hyde Park On Hudson where Elizabeth is portrayed as a raving shrew who hates hot dogs and has no sense of the common touch. I think nothing could be further from the truth.

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    • AStewart

      As a fairly proud Brit, I do love The Queen Mum as some of us call her. Thank you for this insight into her earlier life, did you know they did the Dig for Victory campaign in the grounds of Buckingham Palace and stuck to their ration books in solidarity with the nation?
      She’s technically related to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, but that’s not very surprising given the nature of the aristocracy.

      • Jennifer Wright

        I did not know this, but I love it! And I did hear that – kind of surprisingly to me – she was a big fan of Camilla (supposedly, she let Charles make phone calls to Camilla from her room so they would not be interrupted).

      • Eileen

        Wasn’t she the one who pressured Charles into marrying Diana? Maybe she felt guilty about how unsuited they were to each other.

      • Cassidy

        Jennifer, this was beautifully written! You should do one about Camilla soon.

      • Eileen

        Not that I wouldn’t enjoy that, because I love Camilla and have always been sort of happy that in the end the prince left the beautiful, high-born princess to be with the woman he truly loved, but to tide you over in the meantime:

    • Eileen

      She is my favorite. Although I have to admit her daughter the current queen is pretty awesome, too. They just seem like cool ladies who got stuck in public circumstances and decided to dig their heels in and make the best of them. I have a feeling both of them would have been happier not being queens, but instead of whining about how much it sucked they decided to be awesome queens. And I really really admire that.

    • Alle

      She is the best. THE BEST. That speech is just wonderful.

      On a tangent, but I have a friend (also named Jennifer) whose nickname is Bee. Australians are pretty good at handing out nicknames too, I guess.

    • ascholarsparrot

      Love. Her.

      My favorite story about the Queen Mum (I really hope it’s not an urban legend) is when she went to South Africa and someone (I think a Boer, maybe?) got very confrontational with her about how much he hated the British. She, without missing a beat, just smiled and said “I know how you feel, dear, I’m a Scot.”

      I mean REALLY.

    • Ash B.

      I never like Wallis much, I’ve always preferred Cake.

      You should do Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth next. She was so interesting and did so many exciting things. Please do her.