‘I find it extraordinary how casual they are’: meeting Queen Mary in Kew Gardens

By Hannah Booth

Gail Griffiths watches Queen Mary strolling in the park in 1937

This is my mother holding me up as a toddler to get a closer look at Queen Mary, who was strolling through Kew Gardens in London with her lady-in-waiting. I find it extraordinary how casual they are, that there are no barriers or security. I’ve often wondered whether a press photographer got a tip-off, or just happened to be there. Either way, this picture was published somewhere under the headline: “Down to Kew in lilac time”. My mother, Brenda Landon, and her friend curtsied as she walked past.

Queen Mary was married to George V; she would have experienced her husband’s death, followed by the abdication of Edward VIII, the year before. I have little memory of her beyond her wonderful dresses and hats. It looks like two different worlds: the Queen and her lady-in-waiting from one era, and my mother and her friend – slim, with their fashionable dresses and short hair – from another. My mother always looked good.

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