The world's eyes are on London in the days following the death of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022). . The monarch lived a life for the crown, was known worldwide and was admired and celebrated by millions of fans. In contrast, the sad fate of two forgotten family members seems almost absurd. Why the Queen's cousins Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were hidden in a home and even pronounced dead in the meantime.
When the message from Death of the Queen in early September 2022 went around the world, shock and sadness ran deep. But the sad event also drew attention to all those who want to remind of abuses within the royal family. Abuses over which a blanket of silence had been laid for years.
This includes the sad story of sisters Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, who were declared long dead in a 1963 edition of Burke's Peerage. In reality, the two were still alive at the time - in a mental institution, hidden from the public.
Nerissa and Katherine were born in 1919 and 1926, respectively, as daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, eldest brother of Queen Mum (1900 – 2002) , and his wife Fenella sees the light of day. Both were diagnosed with intellectual disabilities shortly after they were born. Because neither Nissa nor Katherine learned to speak, they were unknowingly labeled 'morons' and admitted to Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey. From then on, the sisters were hidden in the facility for people with developmental disabilities, as they did not fit into the glamorous image of the royal family at all.
For the people, the Queen's cousins were officially deceased, only the older royals knew about their whereabouts in the home. In 'Burke's Peerage' in 1963 the years 1940 and 1961 were given as the dates of death, in reality both died more than 40 years later (1989 and 2014).
When Princess Elizabeth died in 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI. When she became queen, she was said to have had no knowledge of her cousins' history. It was only years later that the tragic fate of the women came to light.
Incidentally, her own mother, Queen Mum, is said to have been involved in the premature death, and several sources say she wanted to cover up the damaged gene pool of the Bowes-Lyon family. After all, she married into the royal family as a commoner at the time – if her genes had brought her the tendency to impair the royals, that would have been a big scandal at the time.
As featured in the fourth season of drama series The Crown, which chronicles the spectacular life of the royal family, Elizabeth's sister is said to be the first Princess Margaret (1930 – 2002) learned of the still-existence of sisters Nerissa and Katherine in the 1980s.
When the lies about the lives of the Queen's cousins were exposed through research and an article in The Sun newspaper in 1987, Queen Mum reportedly paid Earlswood Hospital a staggering sum so that Nerissa and Katherine could get birthday and Christmas presents from then on got. However, the two are said to have waited in vain for visits from their royal family all their lives.
A 2021 Channel 4 documentary recreated the horrifying fates of Nerissa and Katherine. Journalists interviewed a nurse at Earlswood Hospital who had taken care of the sisters in the 1970s. 'Whenever the Queen or Queen Mum came on TV, they curtsied, very regal, very low. They obviously had some kind of family memory,' says Onelle Braithwaite. In addition, both women are said to have had photos of their relatives hanging in their rooms.
'It was so sad,' Onelle recalled, explaining, 'Just think of the life they could have had. They were two such beautiful sisters.” But instead, they were simply written out of royal history. 'The impression I had was that they had been forgotten,' revealed another nurse at Earlswood Hospital.
When Nerissa died in 1989, her grave had only been marked with a small nameplate and a serial number. Her sister Katherine lived 25 years longer and was buried in a small circle in 2014. (cch)