What was Queen Elizabeth REALLY like? GYLES BRANDRETH solutions the query everybody desires to know 


As a result of I’ve met her — as a result of, at shut quarters, I’ve noticed her as she carried out a spread of her official duties — individuals usually ask me, leaning ahead, narrowing their eyes: ‘What was the Queen actually like?’

My reply disappoints them. ‘Very good,’ I say. ‘Relatively regular, really; fairly simple; a lot as you’d anticipate.’

I ponder if we respect how lucky now we have been. Elizabeth II was neither eccentric nor quixotic, and her husband was as trustworthy and simple because the day is lengthy.

If there may be one phrase that sums up Elizabeth II, it’s ‘dutiful’. Her life was pushed by obligation. She was a dutiful daughter and a dutiful Queen.

As Princess Elizabeth, aged 21, she mentioned: ‘I declare earlier than you all that my entire life, whether or not or not it’s lengthy or brief, shall be dedicated to your service.’ She meant it. At her Coronation, she made a dedication to God in addition to to her individuals, and her religion sustained her in all she did.

As a result of I’ve met her — as a result of, at shut quarters, I’ve noticed her as she carried out a spread of her official duties — individuals usually ask me, leaning ahead, narrowing their eyes: ‘What was the Queen actually like?’ Queen Elizabeth II is pictured in 2015 on the Royal Windsor Horse Present

From an early age, she knew what lay forward: a relentless, endlessly repetitive rollercoaster experience of royal duties and good works, from which solely dying or revolution may launch her.

She by no means abdicated, not — as some commentators prompt — as a result of she did not need to see her son turn into King, however as a result of her religion, sense of obligation and heritage meant abdication was merely not a chance. 

Her Uncle David abdicated and his was not an instance she needed to observe. ‘It is a job for all times,’ she mentioned. ‘It is a query of maturing into one thing one has acquired used to doing and accepting that it is your destiny, as a result of I believe continuity is essential.’

It’s not actually shocking that her dying touches us in the way in which it does. Together with members of her household, she featured in our newspapers and on our TV screens virtually each day.

But our relationship with royalty is neither fleeting nor superficial. The Queen is on our postage stamps, cash and banknotes. She is greater than head of state: she is on the coronary heart of our nationwide identification — and for a motive.

Throughout her exceptionally lengthy reign, Elizabeth II was dwelling historical past. Her godparents included each her grandfather King George V and Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the final surviving son of Queen Victoria.

I wonder if we appreciate how fortunate we have been. Elizabeth II was neither eccentric nor quixotic, and her husband was as honest and straightforward as the day is long

I ponder if we respect how lucky now we have been. Elizabeth II was neither eccentric nor quixotic, and her husband was as trustworthy and simple because the day is lengthy

As the most recent in a line of sovereigns that linked her on to King Edgar, Richard III, Henry VIII, George IV and Queen Victoria, she was the embodiment of our nation’s story. Her presence linked us to our previous.

She completely understood her function, her duties and the inevitable restrictions that these imposed. However the Queen’s life was additionally one in every of privilege. She had met everybody and been in all places. She had by no means needed for something. Wherever she went, she was cosseted. And the corgis got here, too — flown, if want be, in an Andover plane of the Queen’s Flight.

Her days have been typically lengthy and sometimes arduous, however she had workers ever in attendance and the consolation of a routine that not often assorted.

At 8am, Her Majesty’s dresser entered the royal bed room with the ‘calling tray’ and a pot of Earl Gray tea. The curtains have been drawn, the bathtub was run (to a depth of seven inches and a temperature of 72f — examined by thermometer) and the Palace started to stir (no vacuuming was permitted earlier than 8am).

Her garments have been laid out for her, her hairdresser was at hand. At 9am, as her private piper performed beneath her home windows, the Queen walked from her bed room, by way of her sitting room to her eating room, holding her Roberts radio, listening to the information of the day.

Breakfast was modest: cereal (from these Tupperware containers), a slice of granary toast, a layer of Oxford marmalade. At ten o’clock the enterprise of the day started: her personal secretary appeared; correspondence was thought-about, state papers scanned; if it was a morning for receiving ambassadors or the day of an investiture, Her Majesty studied her briefing materials.

At one o’clock, earlier than a light-weight lunch (she wasn’t fussy about her meals), she handled herself — till her 96th 12 months, when she gave up alcohol on the recommendation of her docs — to a gin and Dubonnet: equal measures, two lumps of ice and a slice of lemon (the lemon was sliced for her).

At 2.30pm, she walked the corgis. At 5, she took tea. At six, the drinks tray reappeared and Her Majesty would possibly permit herself a average gin and tonic. At 8.15pm, it was supper time.

From an early age, she knew what lay ahead: a relentless, endlessly repetitive rollercoaster ride of royal duties and good works, from which only death or revolution could release her (The Queen is pictured in 2018)

From an early age, she knew what lay forward: a relentless, endlessly repetitive rollercoaster experience of royal duties and good works, from which solely dying or revolution may launch her (The Queen is pictured in 2018) 

On some days, the Queen and Prince Philip would share all or a few of their meals — however in no way every single day. Their pursuits and commitments usually took them in several instructions.

Lengthy earlier than Prince Philip’s dying, the Queen had grown accustomed to evenings on her personal. She watched tv, she accomplished crosswords, she gave the corgis their late supper. She telephoned her racing supervisor. She chatted together with her private web page.

I can let you know precisely what the Queen was like. She had the pursuits, attributes and tastes of an English (or Scottish) countrywoman of her class and technology. Canine and horses, courtesy, kindliness and neighborhood service counted together with her.

Based on Sonia Berry, maybe her closest childhood pal: ‘She would by no means have chosen to be Queen. She would a lot fairly have lived within the nation with horses and canine and been a traditional housewife.’

In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, Basic Secretary of the Soviet Communist Celebration, braced himself for ‘haughtiness’ when he took tea with the Queen at Windsor Fortress. To his shock, he discovered her ‘fully unpretentious — the kind of lady you’ll be prone to meet strolling alongside Gorky Avenue on a balmy summer time afternoon’.

Primarily conservative (with radical thrives), clever (not mental), pragmatic (not introspective), ‘immensely tolerant’ (Prince Philip’s phrase), even-tempered and totally dependable, the Queen made no pretence of being what she was not.

Though formally apolitical, she was undoubtedly not politically right. If she selected, she would exit using with out a arduous hat. She would put on fur, she would not use a seat belt and in her assorted residences, cigarettes have been freely obtainable to her visitors.

I can tell you exactly what the Queen was like. She had the interests, attributes and tastes of an English (or Scottish) countrywoman of her class and generation

I can let you know precisely what the Queen was like. She had the pursuits, attributes and tastes of an English (or Scottish) countrywoman of her class and technology

I’m instructed she even smoked one herself every now and then. Can that be true? Whether it is, it made her extra understanding of her daughter-in-law Camilla’s weak point for the weed.

It was no accident that her son Charles’s second spouse turned out to be very a lot the Queen’s kind of lady — way more so than Diana may ever have been. Camilla can speak simply (and amusingly) about canine and horses. 

She is comfy with the Queen’s view of life (for probably the most half, she shares it); she is politically incorrect (in a great way), humorous, self-deprecating, real looking and, just like the Queen, she is a mom and grandmother who has been a bit tempest-tossed however has managed to climate the storms.

Was the Queen a prude? In no way. As you would possibly anticipate, she was averse to dangerous language, however — as I witnessed myself within the 40 years I knew Prince Philip — her husband often used four-letter phrases. The Queen merely put up together with his salty language.

When Lech Walesa was President of Poland and got here to remain, she instructed an aide: ‘He solely is aware of two English phrases.’ She paused, earlier than including: ‘They’re fairly attention-grabbing phrases.’ Extra lately, at an artwork gallery, she was confronted by a collection of Lucian Freud nudes: heavy, spreading bosoms, weighty, blue-veined thighs. Sensing that the photographers current have been desperate to get a shot of her gazing up at one in every of them, Her Majesty moved herself adroitly out of vary.

When her host inquired, ‘Have not you been painted by Lucian Freud, Ma’am?’, she smiled and mentioned, sotto voce: ‘Sure, however not like that.’

Famously, the Queen was a skilful mimic — not a lot of people however of accents, be it Cockney or Norfolk — and he or she had a full of life, even impish, sense of humour.

At all times on the cellphone to her ‘extravagant’ mum 

Was the Queen Mom jealous of her elder daughter? The Queen’s former personal secretary, Martin Charteris, believed she was.

‘Queen Elizabeth was not but 52 when the King died,’ he jogged my memory. ‘She was accustomed to being centre stage, the main target of consideration, universally beloved. She was nonetheless beloved, after all, and admired, however she was now not the star of the present and I do not suppose she discovered that straightforward.

‘Within the early days of the brand new Queen’s reign, there was an awkwardness about priority, with the Queen not desirous to go in entrance of her mom and Queen Elizabeth, after all, accustomed to going first.’

Even so, Elizabeth II had an excellent relationship together with her mom — ‘loving and regular’ is how the Queen’s cousin Margaret Rhodes described it to me.

The Queen did often shake her head when considering her mom’s insouciant extravagance. On the time of her dying, Queen Elizabeth’s overdraft at Coutts was reported to be within the area of £4 million.

She was presupposed to have as soon as mentioned at a cocktail party: ‘Golly, I may do with £100,000, could not you? Had such an terrible afternoon right now with my financial institution supervisor scolding me about my overdraft.’

And sure, the Queen would possibly, on occasion, specific envy of her mom’s extraordinary capability for avoiding all unpleasantness. However mom and daughter have been good pals, on the identical wavelength, with mutual pursuits (particularly horses) and cozy in one another’s firm, every wanting ahead to their common, straightforward, uncomplicated chats on the phone.

Prince Philip mentioned to me as soon as, eyebrows raised in amazement: ‘They’re at all times on the cellphone!’

Everyone knows that: we gasped in amazement when she appeared on movie with Daniel Craig’s James Bond as a part of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012. She was amused to be requested; she was joyful to do it; she performed her half with out fuss and in only one take; she loved the shock on the night time — she had not confided to her household that she was making this distinctive contribution to the Olympic celebrations.

Given the weirdness of her life (imprisoned by her destiny; destined to be Queen from the age of ten), the Queen appeared to me to be fairly remarkably effectively balanced, rounded, grounded and relaxed with herself, the world and her place in it.

Buddies who knew her when she was youthful inform tales of her sitting on the couch after dinner, her toes tucked up below her, chatting late into the night time. Individuals (even those that knew her effectively) nonetheless discovered it troublesome to deal with her usually, however she behaved usually nonetheless.

As soon as she arrived a bit of late for a supper at a personal home in Belgravia. ‘Cooee,’ she known as up the stairwell as she was taking off her coat, ‘it is us. Sorry we’re late. Horrible visitors.’

This important normality — mixed with elementary decency — was at all times there, beneath the royal trappings.

From all of the individuals I’ve spoken with who have been near the Queen — courtiers, family and friends members — I get the impression that she was not judgmental when it got here to others. She regarded for the very best in individuals and hoped for the very best from them and for them.

When issues went improper, she prayed (on her knees, together with her palms folded collectively) that they’d go higher. However though she was Queen, she didn’t lay down the legislation. She was, as an illustration, at all times reluctant to intrude within the personal lives of members of her household.

There was a streak of hysteria in Diana, Princess of Wales: you sensed it even with a quick acquaintance. There was none within the Queen. The Queen was sane. The Queen was wise. She had her toes on the bottom.

In contrast to Prince Philip, who would often fly right into a rage, she was at all times calm. Based on her pal Sonia Berry: ‘She would possibly get aggravated about one thing however as a rule she stayed on a good keel. I by no means noticed her lose her mood.’

Nor was the Queen self-conscious: she would apply her lipstick whoever was watching. She was not simply flustered: nonetheless hectic the schedule, nonetheless many stops on the tour, her personal regular tempo by no means assorted.

After all, she had senior courtiers round her who knew what they have been doing (unstuffy, for probably the most half; unfussy, with a few exceptions), and dependable ladies-in-waiting who have been actual pals.

For 67 years of devoted service, she additionally had her dresser and confidante Bobo MacDonald (the Queen got here down from Balmoral to the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace for her funeral). Bobo was succeeded by one other dresser, Angela Kelly (a Liverpool dock employee’s daughter, 25 years youthful than the Queen), who grew to become an ally and pal.

Inevitably, given the size of her reign, the Queen had her ups and downs. In 1957, a 33-year-old peer, author and historian, the 2nd Lord Altrincham, grew to become internationally infamous in a single day for publishing what many thought to be an unforgivable private assault on the Queen.

Altrincham accused the Queen, then 31, of being out of contact, dwelling fully inside the confines of her personal class, surrounded by courtiers of ‘the tweedy kind’, making speeches that amounted to ‘prim little sermons’ within the method of ‘a priggish schoolgirl’ and talking with a voice that was ‘a ache within the neck’.

‘Like her mom,’ wrote Altrincham, the younger Queen ‘seems to be unable to string even a couple of sentences collectively with out a written textual content.’

The Queen waits within the Drawing Room earlier than receiving Liz Truss for an viewers at Balmoral, Scotland on Tuesday. Right this moment she is below the supervision of docs amid considerations about her well being

He went on: ‘When she has misplaced the bloom of youth, the Queen’s fame will rely, excess of it does now, upon her character. It is not going to then be sufficient for her to undergo the motions; she must say issues which individuals can keep in mind and do issues on her personal initiative which is able to make individuals sit up and take discover. As but there may be little signal that such a character is rising.’

Greater than 60 years on, the Queen’s fame does certainly relaxation upon her character. With a handful of exceptions, she didn’t say issues which individuals may keep in mind, or do issues which made individuals sit up and take discover. However her character emerged nonetheless.

We all know what the Queen stood for and cared about. Take, for instance, her dogged dedication to the Commonwealth. Whitehall and Westminster could also be extra preoccupied with the UK’s relations with Europe and america, however the Queen’s educated enthusiasm for what she described as ‘a free and voluntary affiliation of equal companions’ that ‘in all historical past has no precedent’ was a marvel to behold.

The novelist Daphne du Maurier, when her husband Boy Browning was nonetheless Comptroller of the Duke of Edinburgh’s family, stayed at Balmoral and was struck by the way in which Prince Philip may speak about something — literature, artwork, homicide, navy manoeuvres — whereas the Queen’s vary of pursuits and dialog was way more restricted.

Her ‘snapping’ at Philip over intruder 

In July 1982, an intruder — a 33-year-old schizophrenic named Michael Fagan — discovered his approach into Buckingham Palace and disturbed the Queen, alone, asleep in mattress.

This alarming incident prompted a double dose of shock from parts of the Press: why was the Palace’s safety so lamentable and the place was Prince Philip? Why was he not readily available to return to his spouse’s rescue?

Certainly, the ‘revelation’ that the Queen and her husband didn’t seem to share a bed room induced extra remark in sure quarters than the truth that a lunatic may get lost the road and into the sovereign’s bed room with out let or hindrance.

The Queen, who, on the time, dealt with the intrusion with commendable calm, was nonetheless shaken. The favored Press had the reply: ‘Give her a cuddle, Philip,’ instructed one headline.

In actual fact, when sleeping below the identical roof, the Queen and Prince Philip often did share the identical mattress. It simply occurred that on the morning of Fagan’s intrusion, Philip had a crack-of-dawn begin for an out-of-town official engagement and so spent the night time in his personal quarters.

Their long-standing pal Gina Kennard instructed me: ‘At Balmoral that 12 months — after that man acquired into her bed room — the Queen started snapping at Philip. She was actually fairly snappy with him. Which was uncommon for her. Not for him, after all. He’s at all times been a bit snappy. However the man entering into her room was horrid.’

It was. The person had a damaged glass ashtray in his hand and was bleeding when he entered the Queen’s bed room at round 7.15am.

She pressed the alarm button by her mattress, however her in a single day police guard had gone off obligation at 6am and her footman was strolling the corgis. Fagan merely wandered in, drew the curtains and sat on the mattress.

He needed to share his troubles with Her Majesty. (Later, he instructed police he had deliberate to slash his wrists in entrance of the Queen.) Finally, when he requested for a cigarette, the Queen managed to manoeuvre him out of the bed room and the alarm was raised.

The incident prompted a evaluation of Palace safety, which was, within the phrases of Fagan himself, ‘diabolical’. This was not Fagan’s first daybreak raid on the Palace: on the earlier event he had stolen a bottle of wine.

The then Residence Secretary Willie Whitelaw, who was in the end liable for the Queen’s safety, provided his resignation. It was declined. Some years later, he instructed me, his eyes brimming with tears: ‘I felt totally ashamed, totally depressing. It was the worst second of my public life.’

Michael Fagan, the 33-year-old intruder into Buckingham Palace in July 1982

Michael Fagan, the 33-year-old intruder into Buckingham Palace in July 1982

Her Majesty’s face solely actually ‘lit up’ when the speak was of horses — and world affairs.

In reality, the Queen was exceptionally effectively knowledgeable. It’s because she was conscientious. She did her ‘packing containers’ week in, week out, all year long. She mentioned she was a fast reader, ‘although I do fairly begrudge a number of the hours that I’ve to do as an alternative of being outside’.

She knew the presidents and prime ministers of the Commonwealth personally. The way in which they spoke of her — invariably with respect, usually with affection, often with awe — suggests their admiration was real, not merely a matter of type.

In the UK, she had 15 prime ministers. She maintained a cordial relationship with all of them — even Margaret Thatcher, who instructed me that the speak of her having a strained relationship with the Queen was ‘a whole lot of nonsense’.

‘The Queen,’ mentioned Woman Thatcher, ‘is just marvellous. And her dedication to the Commonwealth and to our Armed Providers has been particularly essential.’

When Parliament was sitting, the Queen and prime minister met as soon as per week, and in September the prime minister and his/her consort have been briefly visitors of Her Majesty at Balmoral (it’s reckoned that the Blairs’ child Leo, born a tad prematurely on Could 20, 2000, was conceived below the royal roof).

The Queen noticed herself as a ‘sounding board’ for her prime ministers.

She mentioned: ‘They unburden themselves, or inform me what is going on on. If they have any issues, typically one might help in that approach, too. I believe it is fairly good to really feel that one’s a kind of sponge.

‘Some issues keep there and a few issues exit the opposite ear . . . often, one can put one’s viewpoint when maybe they hadn’t seen it from that angle.’

On the entire, the Queen accepted what politicians threw at her over time, such because the curtailment of the Civil Record and the requirement from 1993 to pay tax on her personal revenue. There was negotiation — a little bit of give and tackle both aspect — however in the end, the federal government of the day known as the photographs.

She did, nonetheless, efficiently resist an try by Tony Benn (when he was Postmaster-Basic within the mid Nineteen Sixties) to have the Sovereign’s profile faraway from British postage stamps.

As soon as, I requested Lord Charteris, Her Majesty’s longest-serving personal secretary, if the Queen herself ever felt she had put a foot improper. He mentioned, directly: ‘Aberfan. She acquired that improper and he or she is aware of it.’

In October 1966, within the South Wales mining village of Aberfan, a slag heap collapsed, engulfing the village faculty and killing 146 individuals. The Queen expressed her anguish in a press launch and dispatched Prince Philip and Lord Snowdon to the scene. She didn’t instantly go herself.

‘It was a mistake,’ Charteris instructed me, ‘and one she regrets. The size of the tragedy known as for a direct response, however she is just not a spontaneous individual and isn’t given to emotional gestures. Customized, type and precedent rely together with her. She tends to do what she has carried out earlier than.’

She made up for her error within the years that adopted. She visited Aberfan 4 instances, most lately throughout her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012, when she unveiled a plaque at Ynysowen Group Major Faculty and made a speech. (She was ever-present and at all times extremely seen, however she didn’t make that many speeches.)

The Queen continues to be charged by some with having been out of contact and sluggish to react (for instance, within the case of Paul Burrell’s trial and on the outset of the week of Diana’s dying) and even her keenest admirers, who regarded her as a drive for good, wouldn’t have described her as a drive for change.

However whereas which may have mattered when she was a youthful lady, it didn’t matter in any respect later in her reign. The world modified: the Queen, thank God, didn’t.

Amid life’s uncertainties, she was reassuringly acquainted. She saved the present on the street.

She saved her profile on the postage stamps, not for causes of self-importance however as a result of that was the place it belonged; that was the place you anticipated it to be.

Tailored from Philip: The Closing Portrait by Gyles Brandreth, revealed by Coronet, £12.99. © 2022 Gyles Brandreth. To purchase a duplicate for £11.69 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or name 020 3176 2937. Provide legitimate till 24/9/2022, UK p&p is free on orders over £20.



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