The Queen Mother, previously known as Queen Elizabeth, was the stern figure who helped establish the backbone of the Royal Family up until her death in 2002, aged 101. Although loved by the public for her warmth and stoicism throughout World War 2, she was a stickler for the mantra, ‘never complain, never explain’ and remained determined to keep royal life out of the public eye. She never wanted her husband, King George VI, to ascend the throne and the pair enjoyed a quiet life with their two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, for the first 13 years of their marriage.
However, after the unexpected abdication of his brother King Edward VIII, Elizabeth stepped in to provide unwavering support to her husband — although she resented the Duke of Windsor for life.
Her royal duties meant her children had to lean more heavily on the nannies, and they became particularly attached to one nanny, Marion Crawford, affectionately known as Crawfie.
Crawfie was a close companion to the royals for 17 years but was then ostracised after she was accused of selling her story to the media without her former royal employers’ permission.
However, unearthed letters between the then Queen consort and her employee reveal a different narrative.
An informal letter from the royal to Crawfie reads: “I do feel, most definitely, that you should not write and sign articles about the children as people in a position of confidence with us must be utterly oyster.
The Queen Mother, and Princess Elizabeth with her governess Marion Crawford
Marion Crawford (R) was the main governess for Elizabeth and Margaret for 16 years
“I know you understand this, because you have been so wonderfully discreet all the years you were with us.”
However, she then refers to journalist Dermot Morrah, and said she knew he wanted Crawfie’s help with his articles in exchange for payment.
The Queen Mother noted: “That would be quite all right as long as your name did not come into it.”
Some reports claim the Palace even helped broker a deal with Crawfie and a publisher, believing an article on royal life might boost UK-US relations if released in the States.
However, the Queen Mother also wrote: “I do feel most strongly that you must resist the allure of American money and persistent editors and say No No No to offers of articles for articles about something as private and as precious as our family.”
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Crawfie was a loyal staff member and heavily rewarded after years of service until 1950
However, Crawfie’s work did not remain anonymous.
Her husband signed a contract on her behalf with the American magazine publishers Bruce and Beatrice Gould, and the couple were paid $85,000 (£63,750) .
Her work was published in Woman’s Own and the ladies’ Home Journal in 1949.
The beloved nanny was also clearly named as the source for the book, ‘The Little Princesses’ which was released in 1950.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth immediately broke all contact with her.
Their daughter, the current Queen, has refused to talk about her for decades, while her sister Margaret claimed Crawfie had “sneaked” on her former employers.
The Queen Mother also declared that Crawfie must “have gone off her head” when the first two articles came out.
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The Queen Mother with Princess Margaret and the Queen in in 1973
Crawfie then had to move out of her home, Nottingham Cottage in the Kensington Palace estate, which had been granted to her for life after her dedicated service to the royals.
Crawfie had once described moving into the property as “a dream come true” and explained: “I had never before had a home of my own and to me it seemed wonderful.”
She had served the Royal Family right up until the current Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip in 1947, and delaying her own nuptials for 16 years so as not to “abandon the King and Queen”.
Philip and Elizabeth would also pop in to see Crawfie regularly, especially when she was expecting her firstborn Prince Charles.
However, after ‘Little Princesses’ was published, the royals never spoke to her again and saw it as a betrayal.
The book itself created a huge stir because it was the first account of life behind Palace walls ever published, but included few outrageous details.
Royal writer Anthony Holden explained: “Crawfie was extremely badly treated by the Queen Mother and by all the royals.
King George VI, Queen consort Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret all cut Cawfie off after she contributed to books
Royal Family tree showing the Queen’s lineage
“It is symptomatic of the ruthless and brutal cold-heartedness of that family and of the way they treat the victims they leave in their wake who, including Diana, have generally done them great service.”
Her close friend and confidant Nigel Astell also claimed: “[Crawfie] always hoped for a reconciliation, but it never came.
“Crawfie was intensely loyal and would not use the letters to defend herself, even though they showed she had been acting in good faith.”
He added: “I hope the truth will finally come out. That is what Crawfie wanted. She loved Elizabeth and Margaret and could never quite believe what happened to her.”
Patricia Mountbatten, one of the Queen’s cousins, once claimed Crawfie was a “highly competent woman with a good personality for bringing out someone like Princess Elizabeth, who had a stiff upper lip ingrained from birth”, which may explain how they became so close.
Yet, Crawfie went on to write different stories about Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, too.