On 6th February 1952, 15 years after taking to the throne following his brother’s abdication, King George VI died in his sleep following a long illness. He was immediately succeeded by his 27-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, whose reign continues to this day, and his funeral took place a week later at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Philip’s will be held in a few hours. Soon after the King’s death, his grieving widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, was sent a soothing anthology by British poet Edith Sitwell. This letter was her response.
15 September 1952
My dear Miss Sitwell,
It was so very kind of you to send me a copy of your lovely book1. It is giving me the greatest pleasure, and I took it out with me, and I started to read it, sitting by the river, & it was a day when one felt engulfed by great black clouds of unhappiness & misery, and I found a sort of peace stealing round my heart as I read such lovely poems & heavenly words.
I found a hope in George Herbert’s poem2, “Who could have thought my shrivel’d heart, could have recovered greennesse? It was gone quite underground.’ And I thought how small and selfish is sorrow. But it bangs one about until one is senseless and I can never thank you enough for giving me such a delicious book wherein I found so much beauty & hope — quite suddenly one day by the river.
It is such an entrancing collection of beautiful & unusual things, & must have taken a lot of digging & delving to find so much variety. I am deeply touched by your thought of me, I love being given books, and I send you my warmest thanks.
I am, yours very sincerely,
A Book of Flowers, edited by Edith Sitwell