QUEEN EL­IZ­A­BETH II

Queen El­iz­a­beth II In­side Her

Closer Weekly - - Contents - By RON KELLY

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.

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