Britain’s late Queen Mother, born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, smiled and waved her way to the age of 101 after guiding her husband King George VI — and her nation — through hard times. But last week, one of her great nieces, Rosie Stancer, embarked on another sort of endurance test: A solo trek to the South Pole. If she succeeds, she’ll be the first British woman to do so.
With her cousins Prince Charles and the Earl of Lichfield among her patrons, Stancer will attempt to reach the Pole by February. Photographer Patrick Lichfield, whose mother Anne was a Bowes-Lyon, has taught Stancer about cameras, and the Prince has promised to call her on the satellite phone on Christmas Day.
Stancer’s trek, sponsored by Snickers, will raise money for Special Olympics Great Britain. But the 43-year-old married mother of one says the journey is a personal challenge.
“Maybe it’s a very primitive urge to test one’s self to the extreme. And I don’t see it as pitting myself against the elements — I’m trying to work with them. I’ll cease to regard the cold as hostile,” says Stancer in a pretrip interview at Joe Allen in Covent Garden.
A petite blonde in a hot pink sweater, Stance doesn’t exactly look like the type who spends time hauling tires around Richmond Park in preparation for dragging her 440-pound sled. But her business card, decorated with a pair of hot pink stilettos on skis, says it all.
In 1997, Stancer took part in the first all-female relay expedition to the North Pole on foot. Three years later, she trekked to the South Pole with four other women, part of the first British female team to walk there unguided. “It was all very emotional when we got to the South Pole. There’s an American base there and they played ‘God Save the Queen’ and gave us champagne,” says Stancer. “It was a horrid shock when we looked in the mirror and saw how thin we’d all become. But there was a real sense of fulfillment, a feeling of complete self-sufficiency.”