How mother’s wise words helped our shy Queen find her strength
TO ANYONE who has watched her perform her duties over a lifetime of public service, she is the picture of unflappable poise.
But the secret of the Queen’s calm confidence can be traced back to a single piece of advice from her mother, a friend has claimed: to walk through the very centre of doorways.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, had been acutely aware of her elder daughter’s natural shyness, Lady Penn said, and had gently coaxed her towards being as comfortable in public as her future job would require.
Lady Penn, a former lady in waiting to the Queen Mother and friend of the Queen, said: “The Queen Mother told the Queen when she was very young to be brave. I think the Queen, probably when she was young, felt walking into a room full of people was rather daunting.
“So she said to her, ‘What you want to do, when you walk into a room, walk through the middle of the door’.
“And I think by that she meant, don’t sort of go in apologetically. You walk through as if you know, ‘I’m in charge’. “I think that was very good advice.” Lady Penn shares her recollections in a new eight-part documentary series,
made by ITN, which sees the Queen’s childhood friends, former staff and politicians from throughout her reign offer their memories of the 65 years since the Coronation. Contributors include two of her maids of honour; Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames; and a friend and cousin of Prince Philip, Lady Butter. The first episode, to be broadcast on Tuesday on Channel 5, sees friends recall the Queen’s early years and the moment she learned she would one day be Queen.
On the day of the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 – which meant Princess Elizabeth’s father took the throne as King George VI – historian Kate Williams tells the audience that Princess Elizabeth had been attending a swimming lesson. When the princess and her sister heard the news and realised that Elizabeth, as the eldest child, would one day be Queen, Margaret responded: “Poor you.”
As the documentary moves through the Queen’s reign, maids of honour Lady Glenconnor and Lady Rayne Lacey describe how the Royal party relaxed after the Coronation at Buckingham Palace, and how a five-year-old Prince Charles once nearly made off with a crown.
Ronald Allison, former press secretary to the Queen, talks about the first televised Christmas message in 1957, saying the Queen described it as “nerveracking”. Christina Aldridge, daughter of the BBC cameraman who filmed it, reports her father’s memory as Prince Philip pulling “encouraging faces” at his wife to lighten the mood.