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.