Lilian Bailey and a royal seance

Lilian BaileyI promised in my last Blog, which was about the impressive evidence Lionel Logue received from psychic  Lilian Bailey, to share more information about the famous London medium’s royal connections. Logue, as I explained, was the speech therapist to the future King of England, George VI, and he also received messages from dead royals which he passed to the king.

I knew about that but nothing could have prepared me for the story which her son-in-law, Gordon Adams, bookshop manager and company secretary at Psychic Press, publishers of Psychic News, confided in me after my own sitting with Lilian. Bill (as Gordon was known to his friends) revealed that a remarkable séance had taken place in 1953, not many years before I began investigating Spiritualism. It was very much a family “secret” because Lillian was sworn to secrecy and I was told about it on the understanding that I did not discuss it with anyone until her death, which occurred in October 1971.

Bill Adams, I should explain, was a very good friend. We were colleagues for eight years and we were also near neighbours, Bill having tipped me off when a resident in the apartment building in London where he lived passed away, meaning that my application to rent the deceased’s flat was the first received by the landlord, and I was successful.

Here’s the story he told me, taken from my book Spirit Communication (Piatkus, 2005 and 2010):

Lilian Bailey knew there were people who required her to perform under the strictest test conditions before they would be prepared to accept the evidence of their own eyes and ears, and she always did her best to satisfy those demands, within reason. So when she received a request from a stranger to give a séance at a house in Kensington, she agreed. A limousine took her to a well-appointed property, then she was taken on to another address and was required to put on a blindfold during the journey so that there were no visual clues about the person or people she would be meeting. Again, she agreed.

She was eventually led into a room, where she sensed others were gathered, and was asked to conduct the séance, still wearing the blindfold. This was not a great hindrance, since Lilian Bailey often worked in trance. Puzzled but philosophical about the lengths to which people went to test her mediumship, the medium eased herself into a chair and soon felt herself drifting off into a trance, allowing her main spirit helper, Bill Wootton, and others in the next world to take over her body and speak through her lips.

In what seemed to her like no time at all, she returned to normal consciousness and was told she could remove the blindfold. As her eyes grew accustomed to the light she surveyed the sitters.

Sitting in a circle on gilt chairs were the Queen Mother, the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra and the Duke of Kent.

This astonishing experience, which happened a year after the death of King George VI, had clearly been arranged in the hope of receiving a communication from the dead monarch, and it was almost certainly successful. But, since she was in trance, Lilian Bailey knew nothing of the conversations that took place between members of the British royal family and those who wished to speak to them from the spirit world. Nor have any of those who participated – unsurprisingly – ever commented directly on the secret séance.

Royal biographer and Daily Telegraph court correspondent Ann Morrow included the story in her book, The Queen Mother, published by Granada in 1984. She had asked Gordon Adams if Lilian Bailey was unnerved when she removed her blindfold. He replied: “My mother-in-law had dealings with all sorts of people, such as the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and the King of Greece. So she did not feel intimidated by royalty; it was all in a day’s work for her.”

The Queen Mother is reported to have continued to phone Lilian Bailey for some time after the séance and further private sittings took place. Eventually, when she came to terms with her loss and was clearly satisfied that the dead King continued to watch over her from the spirit world, she asked the medium to Clarence House one last time. Removing a piece of costume jewellery from the dress she was wearing, the Queen Mother pinned it on Lilian Bailey’s shoulder, saying: “You know we do not have many possessions, but I would like you to have this.” It expressed her gratitude for the comfort she received. Almost immediately, the monarch’s widow returned to public life.

Since the Royal Family have never confirmed the story, can we be sure that this remarkable event actually took place?

Those who knew Lilian Bailey – who was awarded an OBE for services in France during World War I when she served with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps – are adamant that she would not have invented such a story to boost her reputation. She was already famous and, since the story was never published during her lifetime, it did not affect her standing among Spiritualists or the public. That may not satisfy sceptics.

More to the point is an observation made by Ann Morrow. In writing her book, she received assistance from the Queen Mother and her Private Secretary, Sir Martin Gilliat. They saw proofs of the book and raised no objection to the inclusion of the report on the royal séance. The story was repeated, again without objection, in Ann Morrow’s Without Equal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, published in July 2000 to mark her centenary.

Since I wrote Spirit Communication I’ve been made aware of a couple of additional facts which may or may not be relevant. The first is that, as well as telling the story in her biographies of The Queen Mother, Ann Morrow also includes “Mrs Lilian Bailey: a psychic who helped the Queen Mother after the King’s death” as one of just 19 individuals under the headline “Key Figures in the Life of the Queen Mother” at the front of Without Equal. Lilian sits in the alphabetical list above Stanley Baldwin who was British Prime Minister at the time of King Edward VIII’s abdication.

King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Mackenzie KingI must add that Buckingham Palace poured cold water on the story, after a newspaper picked it up, with a spokesperson commenting that it was a nice after-dinner story but totally untrue. My response is that, having known the medium concerned and her son-in-law I have no reason to disbelieve the story. Besides, I also know that  The Queen Mother consulted society clairvoyant Tom Corbett, but that was also denied by the royal household.

Interestingly, King George VI and the Queen visited Canada and the United States three years after he became monarch. He was, of course, also King of Canada and the royal couple were accompanied throughout the trip by the Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was then serving his third term in that office (from 1935-1948). He is pictured (left) at Banff Springs with the royal visitors.

Mackenzie King was a Spiritualist who not only consulted many mediums but also conducted his own mediumistic experiments. After a trip to the League of Nations in 1936, it is reported that he went to England to visit the London Spiritualist Alliance in London as part of his quest for greater spiritual understanding.

Throughout the 1940s Mackenzie King continued to consult mediums, including Lilian Bailey, Hester Dowden, Gladys Osborne Leonard, Mrs Sharplin and Geraldine Cummins.

So it is possible that Spiritualism was a topic of conversation between the royal visitors and Canada’s prime minister. If so, he would have had a receptive audience. After all, some years later King George VI told his speech therapist, “My family are no strangers to Spiritualism.”

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