Queen’s ‘hidden’ cousins erased from Royal Family in shameful scandal. Source: EXPRESS. Daily Briefing.

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Queen’s ‘hidden’ cousins erased from Royal Family in shameful scandal

THE QUEEN’S maternal cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon – often nicknamed the ‘hidden cousins’ – were erased from royal history when their deaths were reportedly falsified in the Forties, erupting in a royal scandal over 40 years later.

By Sophie McCabe

07:27, Thu, Sep 15, 2022 | UPDATED: 09:05, Thu, Sep 15, 2022

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The nation is in mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed peacefully at Balmoral Castle on Thursday, September 8. Her Majesty’s coffin now lies in state at Westminster Hall, where members of the public are now filing past to pay their respects to the monarch. The Queen’s funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey on Monday, September 19 before the coffin is taken to the monarch’s final resting place — the King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor. 

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While the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II are often remembered for their highs, there have of course been some lows. 

The Queen famously deemed 1992 her ‘annus horribilis’ in reference to numerous royal relationship breakdowns and a fire at Windsor Castle, and more recently, 2021 was dubbed the sequel to the historic year of royal scandal.   

But perhaps a lesser known Royal Family scandal was the alleged institutionalisation and subsequent abandonment of two of the Queen’s cousins. 

Born in 1919 and 1926 respectively, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were two of the daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon and his wife Fenella. 

READ MORE: Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend marked with exciting ‘rare occurrence

Nerissa and Katherine / Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen’s ‘hidden’ cousins were erased from the Royal Family. (Image: Star News Today/YouTube | Getty Images)

John Herbert Bowes-Lyon

John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, the father of Nerissa and Katherine. (Image: Getty Images)

John was the brother of the Queen Mother, making the sisters first cousins of the Queen.  

However, neither were ever able to be a part of the Royal Family.

Both Nerissa and Katherine were born with severe learning difficulties and, following the death of their father in 1930, were admitted to a mental health institution. 

They were reportedly sent from the family home in Scotland to Royal Earlswood Hospital at Redhill, Surrey, where they lived out the rest of their days.

Fenella Bowes-Lyon

Fenella Bowes-Lyon, the sisters’ mother. (Image: Getty Images)

Their exact diagnosis remains uncertain as in the medical terminology used at the time, Nerissa and Katherine were cruelly deemed ‘imbeciles’.

After their admission in 1941, the sisters were allegedly treated like they never existed by their extended family. A claim that has been denied by their family. 

A 1963 edition of Burke’s Peerage (a definitive referencing and listing of the peerage and titled aristocracy) of Great Britain, listed Nerissa as having died in 1940, and Katherine passing in 1961.

However, when the story of the sisters’ existence was published in 1987, it was reported that Nerissa had died only the year before, and Katherine was still alive. 

Queen Mother in 1940

John was the brother of the Queen Mother, making Nerissa and Katherine first cousins of the Queen. (Image: Getty Images)


Nerissa was aged 66 at the time of her death and was reportedly buried in a grave marked only with a name tag and serial number.  

Katherine, meanwhile, stayed in the hospital until 1997, when it closed amid abuse claims, and then lived in another home in Surrey, later dying aged 87 in 2014.

A scandal instantly erupted when it emerged the Royal Family had apparently erased two of its members from their lives — although accusations of a cover-up were denied. 

In the 2011 documentary ‘The Queen’s Hidden Cousins’, nurses and staff at Earlswood confirmed that, to their knowledge, the family never sent the sisters a birthday or Christmas gift or card.

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