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From the archives

The Queen’s common touch

I have a little theory as to why the Queen has been so successful, says Zadie Smith in Vogue. She seems “distinctly lower middle-class”. It’s strange: her children seem aristocratic, the grandchildren terribly posh, “yet around the Queen there hangs this persistent aura of Mrs Windsor”. Think about it. Did any resident of Buckingham Palace – “replete as it surely is with bone china and silver serving dishes” – ever before have their breakfast delivered in Tupperware alongside a copy of the Racing Post? We’re told her taste in culture is ordinary: she likes Benny Hill re-runs, TV quiz shows and Question Time (“but only if there’s a good bust up”). And of all the dogs she could have chosen, the Queen “opted for those squat little corgis with their stubby legs, bush tails and uninspired faces, who are the very doggy definition of ‘nothing to see here’”.

I met her briefly once, in 2004, at a palace lunch for “women of achievement”. My Irish husband was scandalised I attended, but my mum would have killed me if I’d declined. “Now, any novelist knows it won’t do to judge people solely on their interiors,” but I couldn’t help but thrill at the inside of the royal abode. “All around were pleasant confirmations of my long-held theory.” Little ashtrays balanced here and there; a self-service buffet; an orchestra playing the Beatles; and countless world-famous masterpieces hung up in a hallway, “where there was no risk of oppressing the residents into any aesthetic opinions or forcing anybody to look at them”.

This is taken from a 2017 essay that was republished for the jubilee.