We pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary and wonderful character with 10 of our favourite anecdotes
HM Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away peacefully at Balmoral Castle on September 8 2022, at the age of 96.
For many people, Elizabeth II reigned for the whole of their lifetimes. It’s probably no surprise it sometimes feels as though the Queen is as familiar to us as members of our own families. So we’d be forgiven for thinking we knew what she was really like. But do we?
These funny and touching anecdotes pull back the royal curtain and offer a glimpse of the real woman behind the great monarch.
1. At Highclere, better known as Downton Abbey, a farm worker was wedged under a broken-down trailer when he heard a familiar voice asking, ‘Can I help?’ It was the Queen, in a headscarf, out walking with a dog. She is one of those guests who wants to make a contribution.
2. When the Queen recorded her Christmas broadcast, the producer put surprise silly pictures at strategic points to ensure that she smiled.
3. After Prince Andrew was born, the Queen had a post-baby phase of not working. Once she went to the theatre with Prince Philip and had become so anonymous she was shown to the wrong seats.
4. ‘I can’t wear beige because people won’t know who I am,’ the Queen once said.
5. The Queen’s handbag had an unusual secondary function – as a signalling device. Handbag placed on the dinner table meant, ‘I want to leave in five minutes.’ Handbag moved from arm to arm said, ‘It’s time to talk to someone else.’
6. There were lots of parties on Malta in the 1940s, when Princess Elizabeth was enjoying a spell as an ordinary naval officer’s wife. Spoons and buns would fly through the air, according to Henriette Abel Smith, the lady-in-waiting. If it got really hazardous, Prince Philip would sit both ladies on the piano to keep them out of danger.
7. In June 2011, the Queen was having lunch at Windsor with racing friends. ‘Boeing 747,’ she said at one point. Then she said, ‘Airbus.’ The castle is right next to Heathrow airport and planes roar overhead. The Queen knew them all by their sound.
8. On a tour of Canada in 1950, the Duke of Edinburgh chased his wife down the corridor of a train, wearing some joke false teeth.
9. ‘I shall call her Bud,’ said Princess Elizabeth, when informed that her new sister was to be called ‘Margaret Rose.’ ‘She isn’t really a rose yet. She’s only a bud.’
10. ‘It’s what we’re made for’: the Queen’s view of child-bearing.