Next month, a series of thoughtful letters written by the Queen Mother will go up for auction. The sweet handwritten cards mailed to Private James Harding, a soldier she helped care for during World War I, show King George VI's future wife to be a caring, lively and generous teenager. The young woman spent ample time with the men at Glamis Castle, her family home, which served as a military hospital where playing cards was a popular pastime.
In the six letters, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, as she was then, recalls games she used to play with Private Harding and his fellow soldiers, and also include poems and photographs – "I'm so glad you like the photo, personally I think it's dreadful!" she commented on one portrait she sent.
According to biographer William Shawcross, Private Harding and his companions would play tricks on Elizabeth during their time at Glamis Castle. "There was 'wild laughter' when she got the Queen of Spades time after time – and she discovered that they had been passing it under the table to give to her," he wrote in his book, Queen Elizabeth: the Queen Mother.
In one of the letters, dated 29 November, 1916, 16-year-old Elizabeth refers to one such card game she played with Private Harding and a Private Nix. "I enjoyed them very much, even tho' I was treated very badly by you and Nix!" she wrote.
The second letter, dated 22 December, 1916, includes a poem she penned about the tricks he played on her: "I sometimes go into the Ward/ And play a game or two/ And if I get the Queen of Spades/ T'is only due to you / Private Harding/ Are you not ashamed and sorry/ That cheating should go on?"
The correspondence also demonstrates Elizabeth's caring side. In the fifth letter, dated 13 September 1919, she expresses concern that Private Harding cannot find a job after the end of the war. "It seems to be very difficult now," she wrote. "I wonder what sort of job you want? I might by chance hear of one that you'd like, though you'd probably want to be in Edinburgh. I do hope something will turn up."
The final letter, written three months later, is a reply to the news that Harding had found a position. "I can't tell you how pleased I am to hear the good news!" she wrote.