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Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait by Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth’s new biography of the late Queen Elizabeth provides a brilliant insight into her “deliciously dry wit”, says Richard Kay in the Daily Mail. Once, when watching a clip of herself on TV, she called out to her husband: “Oh Philip, do look! I’ve got my Miss Piggy face on.” Years later, staff at Buckingham Palace left a birthday card featuring the Muppet character on the seat of her carriage. When she opened it, she “burst into laughter” and didn’t stop chuckling for the entire drive around Windsor.

The monarch could find the funny side in almost anything, “however difficult the circumstances”. After an intruder broke into her bedroom in 1982, she regaled friends and family for weeks with an impression of her chambermaid Lizzie’s startled reaction, delivered in a broad Yorkshire accent: “Bloody hell, ma’am. What’s ‘ee doing ‘ere?” She was similarly unperturbed after learning that a crossbow-wielding intruder had been intercepted in the grounds of Windsor Castle last December, saying he had come to kill the Queen. “Well,” she said, “that would have put a dampener on Christmas, wouldn’t it?”

🏇😡 The Queen’s racing advisor, Sir Michael Oswald, once warned her page Barry against betting on one of her horses, telling him “I have more chance of winning the 100m at the Olympics”. When the 50-1 outsider romped home, the Queen rang Oswald. “Barry is standing next to me,” she told him. “If I were you, I would find some dark glasses and a good disguise next time you come anywhere near this place.”

Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait by Gyles Brandreth is available to pre-order here.