QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Queen Elizabeth II Inside Her
A brand-new documentary offers an inside look at the famed monarch’s private life.
A REVEALING DOCUMENTARY SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON THE REAL WOMAN WHO WEARS THE CROWN
At 92, Queen Elizabeth has recently gone public with a surprisingly fun passion: Scottish country dancing. She has “great rhythm,” her cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson insists. “I have to be seen to be believed,” the dancing queen quips, hinting there’s a much more intriguing woman under the crown than many would imagine.
Now, a new HBO documentary, Queen of the World, offers an up close and personal look at the royal, who was 25 in 1952 when she started her reign upon the untimely death of her dad, King George VI. As the longest sitting monarch in history, “She’s still working as hard as ever,” Nick Kent, executive producer of the documentary, tells Closer, “and retirement doesn’t seem to be in her vocabulary.” Still, Elizabeth’s multilayered personality comes to life for the first time thanks to unprecedented access to the palace and never-before-seen footage.
“One of the things that surprised me most is she’s got a fantastic sense of humor,” Kent says of Elizabeth, whose ascension to the throne in her 20s may have tempered her playful spirit. After her father’s shocking death from a blood clot at 56, Elizabeth — who was visiting Kenya with her husband, Prince Philip, when she heard
the news — was thrust into her role as queen, heading not only England but seven other nations in the British Commonwealth at the time.
Launching the Royal Yacht Britannia, a dream of her father’s, just 14 months after his death, was challenging, as captured in the documentary’s unearthed footage of the ceremony. “She had an aura of sadness and it was picked up in the press,” says Robin, Countess of Onslow. Adds the queen’s son Prince Charles, 69, “To commit to that challenge the way she did was truly remarkable. It appeared effortless, but it wasn’t, of course.”
Any struggles she felt were kept hidden. “Hers was a generation that lived through the Second World War,” Kent notes. “They experienced a degree of trauma and suffering we can’t even imagine. They learned to keep a stiff upper lip.” And grief, the queen says, “is the price we pay for love. When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.
That outlook has served Elizabeth well. No monarch has traveled more extensively and her crowning achievement, Kent says, is growing the Commonwealth from eight to 53 countries. “She inherited her crown, but the Commonwealth is something she really devoted her energies to building,” he notes. “I think that message is the reason why she wanted to be a part of this documentary.”
Overseeing all she does requires grit, which is something that’s contributed to her steely reputation. In Queen of the World, Prince Harry acknowledged this to a group of Buckingham Palace’s visiting youth scholars. “If you suddenly bump into her in the corridor, don’t panic,” he tells them, “but I know you will. It’s OK, though. We all do!”
“If I wore beige, nobody would know who I am.” —Queen Elizabeth on her penchant for wearing bright colors
HER ROYAL AIR
Elizabeth is well aware of that intimidation factor. “I think that’s why she goes to great lengths to put people at ease,” Kent says. “When people actually meet her, they say things like, ‘Oh, she’s just like my grammy!’ ”
She also has a cute nickname within the royal family: “One-Take Windsor,” Kent adds, “because she never has to do anything twice.” Well, almost anything. “There was a rare example where she had to record her Christmas message again, because there were bird noises in the background.” That blooper caused the nonagenarian monarch to burst into girlish giggles.
Helping to keep her young at heart is her teenage crush-turned-husband of 70 years, the now-retired Prince Philip, 97. “He has been my strength and stay all these years,” she gushes.
And even though it’s been rumored that she’s had an affair with her longtime friend and racing manager Lord Porchester, royal experts agree an indiscretion never happened. Philip is the father of her four children, Anne, 68, Charles, Andrew, 58, and Edward, 54, and when it comes to motherhood, the queen notes it’s “the only job which matters.”
Her tasks as the head of her family have been equally as challenging as her role as ruler. “Like all the best families,” she admits, “we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and disagreements.” Her scrutinized relationship with Princess Diana, for example, led her to reportedly write to Charles and his wife to suggest they divorce. And in recently discovered private letters Prince Philip wrote to Diana in 1992, he wrote, “We never dreamed [Charles] might feel like leaving you for [Camilla Parker Bowles],” hinting his wife was more sympathetic to Diana than many thought.
REWRITING THE RULES
Although Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle are touted as royal trailblazers, Elizabeth has always presided over a very modern monarchy. “The queen is very media-savvy in quite surprising ways, and it goes back to her coronation, which was televised,” Kent explains. “It was her idea to do so, as it was her way of saying hers was a new age. And she did it against the advice of the establishment, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill.”
Her rebellious nature has endeared her to her grandsons and their wives. “The queen has unlikely friendships with people decades younger,” Kent notes. “There’s a real bond between William, Kate, Harry, Meghan and the queen. They’re all very close.”
She appointed Harry global youth ambassador in April, knowing that about 60 percent of the 2.4 billion people in the Commonwealth are under the age of 30. “She knows he will create opportunities for younger people. That’s going to be a big thing for him and Meghan in the future.”
This passing down of duties illustrates how the queen embraces the fact that she won’t be able to rule forever. But that doesn’t mean she’s ready to put her feet up. “One of the extraordinary things about Elizabeth is that she still goes out riding on her horses two or three times a week,” Kent reveals. “If you want to see the queen at her most relaxed, that’s probably it.”
This also gives her time to step away from her duties and to escape the pressures it puts on her for a few fleeting moments. “We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection,” she says. “With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.”
When she does, Kent says, he suspects she’s quite pleased with her life and her service. “Enjoying your work is a big part of staying healthy, both psychologically and physically,” he says. “She believes in the value of what she does and I think that really shows.”
The Queen and her one true love, Prince Philip, whom she’s been married to for seven decades. Charlotte and George love being near their fun-loving “Gan-Gan,” Duchess Kate says.