Margaret (Bobo) MacDonald; Dresser, Confidante to Queen
Margaret (Bobo) MacDonald, nanny, dresser and confidante of Queen Elizabeth II, has died at her home in Buckingham Palace. She was 89 and died Wednesday night in her rooms filled with the queen’s dresses, coats and ceremonial outfits.
Her nickname, Bobo, is thought to have been the first word the queen uttered. Miss MacDonald, in turn, was said to have been the only person outside the Royal Family allowed to call the queen by her nickname, “Lilibet.”
At her death, Miss MacDonald had served the queen for 67 years, first as nursemaid in Elizabeth’s infancy, then as dresser, looking after the queen’s clothes and jewels.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The queen is naturally very sad about the news.”
The Scots-born daughter of a farmer, Miss MacDonald was under-nurse in the household of Elizabeth’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, before the duke became King George VI.
She took charge of Elizabeth when her sister Princess Margaret was born in 1930, and the nurse and the princess shared a bedroom until Elizabeth was 11 years old.
The nurse was featured in Elizabeth’s childhood essays, including one about the morning of her father’s coronation in 1937.
“I leapt out of bed and so did Bobo. We put on dressing gowns and shoes and Bobo made me put on an eiderdown as it was cold and we crouched in the window looking on to a cold, misty morning,” the princess wrote.
Miss MacDonald accompanied Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their honeymoon in 1947.
When King George VI bade farewell to his daughter when she flew to Kenya in 1952, he said to Miss MacDonald: “Look after the princess for me, Bobo.” The king died while Elizabeth was away.
In her 80s, Miss MacDonald still woke her mistress with a cup of tea, ran her bath and laid out her clothes and jewelry.
On Miss MacDonald’s birthday each year, the queen is believed to have returned the favor and took her dresser a cup of tea.
“In her later years, Bobo held a unique position in Buckingham Palace, having her own suite, no duties and enjoying a closer personal friendship with the queen than practically anyone else, including some of the queen’s closest relatives,” Douglas Keay wrote in his biography of the queen.
The queen, 67, made Miss MacDonald a lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 1986.
Miss MacDonald, who never married, is survived by her sister, Ruby, who has also been a member of the royal household since the 1930s. Funeral plans were not announced.