The Queen never “let the mask slip” in public, says Gordon Rayner in The Daily Telegraph, but in private she had an “impish” sense of humour. If someone’s phone went off in her presence, she had a stock response: “You’d better answer that – it might be someone important!” She and a bodyguard once encountered two Americans on a walking holiday near Balmoral. Somehow they failed to recognise her, and one asked where she lived. “I live in London, but I’ve got a holiday home just the other side of the hills,” she replied. The American asked if she had ever met the Queen. Gesturing to the bodyguard, she said: “Well I haven’t, but Dick here meets her regularly.” Impressed, the American asked for a photo – of him and the policeman. The Queen duly took the snap.
Behind closed doors, she sometimes referred to herself and her family by the nicknames given to them by Private Eye: Brenda (the Queen), Keith (Prince Philip), Brian (Charles) and Yvonne (Princess Margaret). She liked a practical joke, too: when Philip grew a beard with a “distinct ginger tinge” during a long voyage without her in 1957, the Queen and her staff greeted him “wearing fake ginger beards”. And like all the royal family, she enjoyed “nothing more than when things go wrong” at their tightly-choreographed engagements. During a visit to Trinity College, Oxford, the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and his wife both fainted, and in the ensuing commotion a college servant fell over and dropped a drinks tray. “We’ve had a wonderful lunch,” the Queen told her hosts. “Bodies all over the place!”