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The Firm

The royal family’s “skilful CEO”

The Queen: “tough as old boots”. Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty

Keeping the monarchy alive is a “ruthless business”, says Tina Brown in the New York Times podcast Sway. Luckily for the Windsors, “the Queen has turned out to be a really skilful CEO”. Like her mother, who Cecil Beaton once described as a “marshmallow forged in a welding machine”, the Queen is “tough as old boots”. Yes, the 96-year-old monarch has been known to dither – a habit her family call “ostriching”. But on the big calls, she “ostriches for a while”, then makes a “swift, lethal decision” and moves on.

The Queen’s “perfect” legacy has its problems. Because she has been around for so long, and never needed to modernise, “the evolution of the monarchy has been somewhat blocked”. And I can’t imagine the “national identity crisis” that will take place when she dies. “I think people won’t know how to be British anymore without the Queen.” But the royals will “trundle on”. After all, monarchies have weathered much worse. Henry VIII beheaded two of his queens, after all. “So I mean, it’s survived a lot.”

🎬👸 As for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, says Brown, my favourite detail is that when Meghan Markle acted in the TV show Suits, she was always number six on the call sheet – meaning she was the sixth-most important cast member. Harry was once third in line to the throne, but after his brother had children his position fell to sixth. “Essentially, she married number six on the call sheet.”