New book reveals Queen’s stoicism in final months: Intimate portrait tells how she found comfort after Philip’s death watching Line of Duty and how she dealt with revelations about Andrew
A fascinating royal biography sheds new light on Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable stoicism in the last months of her life, how she didn’t hesitate to ‘fire’ her own son – and found comfort after her husband’s death by watching Line of Duty.
Written by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait – which is serialised in Mail + as well as tomorrow’s Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday – is littered with fascinating vignettes about our longest-serving but still so enigmatic sovereign.
Mr Brandreth, who occupies a unique position as a friend and biographer of the Royal Family, reveals how the Queen told a lady-in-waiting that she was determined to keep busy as it helped her cope with the loss in April last year of Philip, her husband of 73 years.
In the words of the then Duchess of Cornwall – now Queen Consort – who also spoke to the author, her mother-in-law was simply ‘unstoppable’.
The Queen receiving Liz Truss in the Drawing Room at Balmoral Castle on September 6. This is the last photo of Her Majesty
The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh in Windsor in April 2006
Yet former MP Mr Brandreth writes that by autumn last year, the Queen had pushed herself so hard that she suffered a sudden ‘energy low’ and was urged to take it more easy by doctors.
‘I’ve got to be sensible,’ she said reluctantly, a rare acknowledgment of frailty from a woman for whom duty was paramount, despite the personal cost.
Among the wealth of fascinating new detail, Mr Brandreth also reveals:
- When Prince Philip retired in 2017, he and the Queen would go for weeks without seeing each other, although they spoke regularly on the phone While odd to some, she understood his wish ‘not to be fussed over’ and to ‘see out his days in his own way’;
- However the couple discovered a new comfort in each other’s company during lockdown and when it was lifted decided to spend more time together, travelling to Scotland and Sandringham, as well as at Windsor;
- The Queen had been determined to be with her husband when he died, barely leaving his side in the last few weeks of his life, but Philip slipped away so quickly on April 9 last year that staff were unable to wake her in time to see him;
- Despite her intense personal grief, she was a source of huge comfort to her family and saw it as her ‘Christian duty’ to carry on as best she could. ‘Life goes on. It has too,’ she said;
- Watching television, particularly dramas like Line of Duty, helped ‘keep her spirits up’. But she sometimes struggled to keep up with the plot – and disliked the constant ‘mumbling’ on it and other programmes;
- Her renewed determination to keep up the pace of royal duties following the loss of her husband was in part because she did not want to give way to any form of self-pity. ‘My husband would certainly not have approved’;
- The Queen was loyal to her staff and they to her. But her closest aide, Angela Kelly, the ballsy daughter of a Liverpool dock worker, was sometimes viewed as a ‘nuisance’ by her ladies-in-waiting, who disliked her ‘easy familiarity’ with the Queen;
- The Queen’s first three children were born using a now-discredited form of childbirth known as ‘Dammerschlaf’ during which patients are drugged to put them in an amnesic state during labour known as ‘twilight sleep’;
- A lady-in-waiting reveals that the technique, which allows women to remain semi-conscious but with little pain or recollection of the experience, left her suffering ‘post-natal side effects’ with Andrew – and Edward was born naturally;
- The late monarch was a loving mother but one who was willing to take tough decisions when necessary, none more so than over her ‘favourite child’ Andrew;
- Although she retained her ‘confidence’ in her second son, she had no hesitation in stripping him of his role following his disastrous Jeffrey Epstein interview in 2019. ‘The Queen took a firm grip of things. To use the military jargon, there were only few days between flash and bang. Action was called for it and she took it,’ a senior courtier reveals;
- However the Queen also deliberately allowed herself to be photographed riding with Andrew in Windsor Great Park the day after she relieved him of his royal duties to show her personal support. She was also in favour of his appearance at her side at Philip’s memorial service;
- The Queen was always discreet and never said more than absolutely necessary. When Andrew recounted to his mother the whole sorry story of his friendship with convicted paedophile Epstein, she listened carefully and replied with a single word. ‘Intriguing’;
- Even well into her 90s, the late monarch was surprisingly engaged with modern technology, using her own mobile phone and texting her family. But she found ‘apps’ puzzling and would not allow her grandchildren to bring their devices to the table under any circumstances;
- She had a brilliant sense of humour and comic timing, coming up with the idea to keep actor Daniel Craig waiting as she signed off a letter in her memorable 2012 Olympics James Bond skit. But she felt comfortable in taking part in such stunts only after her mother’s death in 2002 because she felt she would have deemed them ‘a bit undignified’, according to a senior aide;
- In the latter months of her life, the Queen’s health deteriorated rapidly. ‘The truth is that Her Majesty always knew that her remaining time was limited,’ Mr Brandreth writes. Her reaction to her health woes was typically phlegmatic. ‘She accepted this with all the good grace you’d expect,’ Mr Brandreth writes, movingly;
- Despite her growing frailty, however, she mischievously adored taking part in June’s Platinum Jubilee sketch, in which she was filmed taking tea with Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace and even drawing out a marmalade sandwich from her iconic handbag. She privately described it as ‘great fun’ and was particularly delighted that ‘everyone kept the secret’ until it was broadcast at the start of the jubilee concert. ‘That was lovely,’ she said.
Written by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait – which is serialised in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday from today – is littered with fascinating vignettes about our longest-serving but still so enigmatic sovereign
Mr Brandeth’s biography tells the story of Elizabeth’s remarkable life and reign from a unique perspective, having been one of the few authors to have met and talked with her, keeping meticulous – and often hilarious – contemporaneous records of their conversations.
He was a confidant of the Duke of Edinburgh and knows the new King and Queen Consort well.
Mr Brandreth is not afraid to write boldly, revealing the Queen’s personal thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s decision to quit as working royals and move to the US, as well as her astonishingly pragmatic reaction to last Christmas’s security breach at Windsor Castle which saw a crossbow-wielding intruder scaling the wall claiming he wanted to kill her.
But he does so with unpatrolled grace and sensitivity, capturing her infectious sense of humour as well as honouring Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years of public service and dogged devotion to her people and country.
Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is published by Michael Joseph on December 8.