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Staying young

“I’m as strong as a horse”

Reading through her papers: every day except Christmas and Easter

Ahead of her coronation, says Chris Smyth in The Times, the Queen was asked if she wanted a break during the three-hour ceremony. “I’ll be alright,” she replied. “I’m as strong as a horse.” And so she was. She read her daily dispatch box every day except Christmas and Easter throughout her reign. “I’m afraid if I missed once,” she once told a friend, “I would never catch up again.” How she managed to keep up this ferocious work ethic “well into her nineties” is probably a combination of genes and good fortune. But she also had various “habits” that kept her in check.

She didn’t drink much, but on most days enjoyed a pre-lunch “sharpener”: two parts Dubonnet and one part gin, with ice and lemon. Before formal dinners, she sometimes relaxed through what her private secretary called “tiara time”: she used tiny tools to decorate tiaras, by “hooking on pearl or gemstone drops”. But she was also good at compartmentalising her public and private lives. “I have a knack,” she told a relative. “As soon as I stop working, I get into the car and I just switch off.”