Which formidable female laid down the rules in no uncertain terms: ‘You are a member of the British Royal Family,’ she declared. ‘We are never tired and we all love hospitals’?
It is often said that the late Queen Elizabeth was much influenced by her father, George VI, particularly when it came to questions of duty.
The way he stuck to the task thrust upon him thanks to the feckless behaviour of his elder brother, Edward VIII, is still admired today.
But when it came to iron-clad determination, there had been another example for the young Princess Elizabeth, also: that of her forceful grandmother, Mary, who once explained the rights and wrongs to another royal as follow
‘You are a member of the British Royal Family. We are never tired and we all love hospitals.’
Queen Mary set down the template for younger royals, saying: ‘You are a member of the British Royal Family. We are never tired and we all love hospitals’
Queen Elizabeth II pictured during a visit to open the new premises of the Royal National Ear Nose and Throat and Eastman Dental Hospital in London in 2020
Queen Mary pictured opening a new hospital wing at Roehampton Hospital in 1925
The generations following after Queen Mary have stuck to her maxim, even if the elder of her two sons grew notoriously tired of ‘Princing’ as he termed it, before eventually abdicating in disgrace.
Whatever the criticism the royal finances might bring, no one can doubt the wholeheartedness of their appearances around the country – including many hospitals, of course.
Today, Queen Mary seems an ever more distant figure to younger but she was a major figure in the life of the royals and unquestionably an influence on her granddaughter Elizabeth, later to be Queen.
According to her official biographer, James Pope-Hennessy, Mary had been a shy child — ‘a big, pink and white, gawky girl’ — who was overshadowed by her ebullient mother, the party-loving Duchess of Teck.
Mary, in contrast, became a somewhat serious woman with strong passions.
Straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, Queen Mary connected the present with a fast-vanishing world of the past, having been the first consort for 400 years to speak English as her mother tongue.
During the First World War, Queen Mary instituted an austerity drive at the palace, where she rationed food, and visited wounded and dying servicemen in hospital.
Prince William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales, meet with staff during a visit to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in Liverpool in January earlier this year
Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, meeting medical staff and survivors at Panzi Hospital, Bukavu, South Kivu Province in October 2022
The Queen Mother is ntroduced to staff at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, in 1995
It was also her idea to send every British soldier during World War I a gilt cigarette box with her photograph – the Queen had a solid grasp of public relations.
The Queen’s support of her husband was invaluable during the latter half of his reign as she advised him on speeches and used her extensive knowledge of history to advise him on political matters.
In the late 1920s, King George V became increasingly ill, but Queen Mary paid particular attention to his care. During his illness in 1928, one of his doctors, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, was asked who had saved the King’s life. He replied, ‘The Queen’.