Britain unveils statue of cherished queen mother


June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 24, 2009 at 2:11 PM EDT

Britain's Prince Charles paid a heartfelt tribute to his "darling grandmother" on Tuesday as the country unveiled its national memorial to queen Elizabeth, the queen mother.

Standing at the foot of the statue of her husband king George VI, and smiling in the direction of Buckingham Palace, the statue of the last empress of India is surrounded by friezes of moments from her life of 101 years.

Britain's monarch Queen Elisabeth II, senior members of the royal family, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and members of the queen mother's staff attended the unveiling in London, which Charles called a "cause for celebration and joyful nostalgia".

Born in 1900, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married in 1923 and was queen from 1936 until her husband's death from lung cancer in 1952.

Praised for her stoicism during World War II, she remained a cherished figure for many in Britain as the queen mother, or "Queen Mum", and more than one million people lined the route at her funeral in 2002.

Like the statue of king George, the queen mother is shown at 51 years old, wearing the Order of the Garter robes, facing towards the palace where the royal couple held out during the blitz of London in World War II.

"At long last my grandparents are reunited in this joint symbol which, in particular, reminds us of all they stood for and meant to so many during the darkest days this country has ever faced," Charles said.

The heir to the throne recalled her "perceptive wisdom, her calm in the face of all adversities, her steadfast belief in the British people and above all, her irresistible, irrepressible sense of mischievous humour."

The bronze monument, by sculptor Philip Jackson, is nine feet, six inches (2.9 metres) tall. It stands on The Mall, the processional route linking Buckingham Palace with Trafalgar Square.

Costing two million pounds (2.9 million dollars, 2.3 million euros), it was paid for by the sale of coins marking her daughter Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday.

"This particular sculpture is her national monument and shows her in majesty -- it's her as queen Elizabeth," said Jackson.

The statue is flanked by two 11-foot (3.35-metre) long friezes by artist Paul Day.

The first shows a wartime scene with the king and queen visiting bombed-out Londoners, with the second showing elements of her life as queen mother such as meeting veterans, at the races and with her corgi dogs.

Day said: "She is with the king in one panel and is the widower queen mother in the other and depicted to a certain extent as the grandmother of the nation."

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