A truly vintage bonkers story in the Daily Mail today claims that the Queen Mother miscarried a baby boy—who would have been king—as a result of being buzzed by a low-flying aircraft in 1950.
The Mail is reporting on the recollections of a 99-year-old pal of the former pilot involved, Walter Beisiegel, who himself died in 1973. The pal is named, wait for it, Tubby Vielle.
Nonagenarian Tubby claims that Walter told him that in 1950 he "buzzed" a garden where a "pregnant lady" was walking, and that soon after the Queen Mother miscarried a baby boy. He does not say how he was able to spot that a woman on the ground was four months pregnant from a fast-moving aircraft, but one should never let inconvenient practicalities get in the way of a good story.
From the Mail:
Tubby Vielle learned of the incident in 1935 when he narrowly escaped a court-martial for the same offence (buzzing), senior officers having accepted his story he had to fly low to avoid a collision with overhead power lines.
‘I was told, in the strictest confidence, that only one other RAF flyer had ever escaped a court-martial for low flying, and that was Walter Beisiegel—whom I knew because he’d been my flying instructor at Cranwell,’ says Group Captain Vielle. ‘And I was privately told the very special reason why. It was because he’d buzzed the Duchess of York, and that soon after the incident she had miscarried a baby boy. He wasn’t court-martialled because none of the Royal Family or their friends were prepared to give evidence, so it was quietly dropped.’
The Mail goes on:
In 1999, that Group Captain Vielle’s literary agent wrote to the Queen Mother’s private office at Clarence House enclosing a draft chapter of his memoirs in which the entire story of the buzzing incident, and its alleged consequences, were told, and seeking their comments.
Back came a reply dated March 15, 1999, from her private secretary Sir Alastair Aird, in which he said: ‘The Queen Mother does . . . remember an aircraft flying low when she was walking in a garden in Fife, but no one fell to the ground and everyone laughed.’ (Fife, in fact, is ten miles from Musselburgh.)
Somewhat audaciously, Group Captain Vielle wrote back to Sir Alastair on April 21, giving a personally detailed account of the incident as he knew it, and concluding: ‘I therefore sincerely believe my story to be true.’
On May 6, Sir Alastair replied: ‘Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reiterates that she did not suffer a miscarriage in any part of Great Britain during the years you mentioned a low-flying incident.’
For most people that might sound final enough, but as Group Captain Vielle says: ‘I believe Sir Alastair carefully limited his answer to “Great Britain” because, as Beisiegel told me, the miscarriage was in the Royal Yacht or a Home Fleet ship, which were in waters off Fife for the summer cruise and so not technically in Great Britain.
‘I believe that it was a deliberately evasive answer.’
Maybe. Maybe not.
Sixty years and hardly a slip.