‘How To Be Useful in War Time’ Queen Mary’s Leadership in the War Effort 1914–1918

  • Judith RowbothamEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern Monarchy book series (PSMM)


This chapter identifies the importance of the wider royal family for the success of individual monarchical institutions, with a focus on Britain’s Queen consort. It argues that active contributions made by a whole family, displayed as being united behind the monarch, were of significant value in reinforcing positive perceptions of the monarchy and demonstrating its relevance to contemporary concerns. From the start, Queen Mary played an active leadership role in the Great War. She not only ensured a public understanding that her husband was supported by his immediate family in the war effort, but also took a lead in demonstrating to the British public that the Royal Family as a whole, not just the King, were both appreciative of and actively and practically engaged with the war effort. Emphasis is often put on the contributions of women suffrage activists to inspiring their sisters to come forward and work for victory. This chapter demonstrates that for a majority of women both in Britain and the Empire, it was the Queen who acted as a crucial leadership symbol for their war efforts. Queen Mary from the start, sought to depict herself as emblematic of British womanhood generally, and in backing up her husband’s efforts to engage directly with his army and navy, she thereby broadened the public profile and usefulness of the Royal Family both in Britain itself and throughout the Empire. This helped to provide a very positive image for the female ‘stay-at-homes’, showing that they too had a total involvement in the war effort even if they were not engaged in high profile activity such as becoming a nurse on the Front Line, or volunteering to work in munitions factories. The Queen’s apparently indefatigable efforts to involve British women in being ‘useful’ in war included more traditional work like caring for the wounded and raising funds for war-related good causes. But it also led her into taking active steps (aided by ‘Red’ Mary Macarthur) to assist working women in Britain, and to her involvement with the formalisation of women’s roles in the Army Auxiliary Corps, with the formation of Queen Mary’s Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—giving it her name to mark her approval of its members and its efforts. This chapter thus provides an assessment of the contribution made by women who did not challenge the traditional stereotypes of femininity, and who felt supported and confirmed in their usefulness in war by the royal role model provided by Queen Mary.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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