A SHAMEFUL and very little publicised part of British Royal history was given an appropriately unsatisfactory conclusion on March 5 2014.
The death was officially announced of 87-year-old Katharine Bowes-Lyon, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, a full day 10 days after her actual passing on February 23.
But Katharine and her sister Nerissa, who died in 1986, were always the Royal Family’s little secret.
They first announced that they had died as long ago as 1940 and 1961, as recorded in the 1963 edition of Burke’s Peerage, a guidebook to aristocratic families and their peerage, which doesn’t usually get facts like that so grossly wrong.
The problem with Katharine and Nerissa, two of the four children of the Queen Mother, was that they both had learning difficulties – and the Royals didn’t want this to become public.
Was this perhaps a result of the in-breeding in the most famous family of all?
After all, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were first cousins and had nine children, an obvious cocktail for problems through the generations.
And to cap it all the current Queen and Prince Philip are second cousins once removed.
Even Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana were related – although this may be difficult to believe considering how little else they had in common.
Perhaps the lives of Katharine and Nerissa would not have been so tragic had they been treated to even a few of the usual benefits afforded to Royals.
But there is no evidence this was the case.
The sisters spent most of their lives in the Royal Eastwood Hospital in Surrey with Katharine being moved to a smaller residential care home in 1997 when the hospital closed.
Staff said the ladies were well aware of their Royal connections and used to curtsey when the Queen was on television.
But was this reciprocated by the Royal Family?
When the scandal eventually came to light around the turn of this century, they were forced into a public statement in which they claimed the ladies were always well looked after and received regular visits.
However this was never confirmed by staff when interviewed on this most embarrassing of topics.
They reported that neither The Queen nor the Queen Mother, who incidentally was Patron of Mencap for much of the ladies’ lives, ever visited their relatives.
Instead there was every indication that the ladies were being hidden out of sight and not being acknowledged in any meaningful way.
Both were given pauper’s funerals. Not exactly the Royal way either………