The Queen Mother rebuilt the monarchy from the ruins of abdication and became the cornerstone of the House of Windsor.

The longest-lived Queen Consort in history was a well-loved member of the Royal Family and a majestic great-grandmother to the nation.

She was a symbol of stability in a fast-changing world.

If the foundations of the Windsor dynasty seem less secure after her death, it will not be for the first time in recent memory.

Arguably, it was the charisma and determination of the diminutive Royal which pushed back

the republican fervour threatening the monarchy and the constitution two generations ago.

The question how long the monarchy could survive in a hostile world was being asked in the aftermath of her brother-in-law's abdication in 1936.

But after Edward VIII vacated the throne in disastrous fashion, the new Queen Consort, wife of the nervous and reluctant King George VI, came to the rescue.

As Queen, she worked wonders in reviving the popularity of the royal house by portraying the Windsors as a normal family which enjoyed simple pleasures.

After George VI and Queen Elizabeth guided Britain through the Second World War, and their daughter ascended the throne, Britain's monarchy seemed stronger than ever, although crowned heads abroad were streaming into exile.

Over seven decades, five of them as a widow, the Queen Mother saw the monarchy buffeted by ever-changing winds of popular disapproval and approval.

Throughout the shocks, challenges and crises of her extraordinary life, she displayed the courage, indefatigable optimism and warmth which became her legend.

But the 1992 Windsor Castle fire epitomised the avalanche of disasters which cast a shadow over the Queen Mother's final years. Her life drew to a close amid tragedies within the family too. There was anxiety about her grandson, the Prince of Wales, whose marital break-up must have rekindled memories of the 1936 crisis.

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales not only rocked the hereditary foundations of the House of Windsor but also left Prince William and Prince Harry without a mother.

There was anguish, too, about the breakdown of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York.

At least there was comfort in the second marriage of the Princess Royal, after her divorce from Captain Mark Phillips, and later the wedding of Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones.

The Queen Mother, the great lady who smiled her way into the nation's heart during the Blitz - saying she was glad Buckingham Palace was attacked so she "could look the East End in the face" - was the country's last major figure of the Second World War.

As old as the century - born August 4, 1900 - she was one of the few survivors of the pre-1914 Edwardian era, when nationhood revolved around King and country.