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Do Let’s Have Another Drink

The Queen Mother at Chelsea Flower Show, 1971. Getty

Gareth Russell’s new biography of the Queen Mother is stuffed full of outrageous anecdotes. Because her father, Lord Strathmore, couldn’t be bothered to register her birth for six weeks, a fabulously bonkers rumour began circulating that she was really the daughter of a French chef. One conspiracist pointed to her podgy appearance, claiming: “She did look like the daughter of a cook.”

The book’s title – Do Let’s Have Another Drink – comes, of course, from the Queen Mother’s legendary drinking habits. Russell recounts a boozy lunch she shared with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster – and, according to the Queen Mother, a very good pianist. When her equerry came to retrieve her late in the afternoon, he found the worse-for-wear pair belting out a rendition of Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man’s a Dustman. “I think my drink was spiked,” she later claimed.

Her household staff was also full of gay men. When one crusading homophobe asked her to send a moral message by firing her gay servants, she replied that if she did, she’d have to go self-service. Once, when her regular 7pm gin and tonic failed to appear, she ventured out to the pantry, where she overheard two of her male footmen having a lovers’ tiff. She interrupted them with the immortal line: “Would one of you old queens mind getting this old queen a drink?”