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10-11 September


The end of the second Elizabethan era

The Queen’s death marks the end of the “second Elizabethan era”, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. Over the course of 70 years, she steered the monarchy from the world of “aristocracy and deference” in which she was born, through the social liberation of the swinging 1960s and the “bitter divisions” of the 1980s and onward into a new millennium. The same queen who gamely carried out royal duties over Zoom during the pandemic was also a deep link to the “unreachable past”.


An enduring love of horses

The first thing you notice at Sandringham, says BBC Sport’s Frank Keogh, is a “life-size sculpture” of the Queen’s racehorse Estimate, which won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2013. It’s a mark of the monarch’s “enduring love of horse racing”. Her equine charges – whose names included “Duty Bound”, “Constitution” and “Discretion” – won more than 1,800 races, including four of the five British Classics. The first newspaper the Queen read each morning was the Racing Post. The only person guaranteed to be put straight through to her by telephone was Lord “Porchey” Carnarvon, her longtime racing manager.


Britain’s secret weapon

The Queen fulfilled her diplomatic role in a way “no British sovereign had done before”, says Valentine Low in The Times. Referred to by Foreign Office mandarins as “our secret weapon”, she had a “quiet magnetism” which cast a spell over everyone from Donald Trump to Angela Merkel. One of her warmest relationships was with Nelson Mandela. The South African president called her Elizabeth; she called him Nelson. On his state visit to Britain in 1996, he asked to attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall instead of a banquet. During the rousing finale he got up to boogie and, in a most “un-Queen-like” moment, she did too. “Good heavens,” said one establishment figure. “The Queen is dancing!”


As well as her family, the Queen leaves behind a handful of beloved corgis. She got hooked on the breed back in 1933, when her dad brought home a Pembroke Welsh Corgi called Dookie. One thing led to another, and on Liz’s 18th birthday she was given her very own pup, Hickathrift Pippa, who came to be known by the nickname Susan. Susan was the “foundation bitch”, meaning every subsequent corgi the Queen bred – all 14 generations of them – descended from her (see above). She was also, apparently, “an actual bitch” too, says Gawker. She was a notorious biter, with victims including a sentry, a detective, a policeman patrolling the palace gardens, and a royal clock winder. After Susan bit a postie in 1968, the Queen was eventually persuaded to hang “Beware of the Dog” signs around Balmoral.


A revolutionary monarch

In our “democratic and egalitarian age”, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg, it is a miracle that monarchy has endured. Everything it stands for – “inheritance rather than merit” – is the antithesis of our proclaimed values. Yet our royal family has not only survived, it has thrived. For this, we must thank “the Queen’s genius”. She proved adaptable, and willing to endorse changes that were “profoundly alien to her class”. From abolishing the hereditary principle in the House of Lords to transforming the Empire into a Commonwealth of self-governing nations, the Queen understood and accepted our changing world.


Calm under fire

The Queen was hard as nails, says Gordon Rayner in The Daily Telegraph. Out riding with her cousin six months after the murder of Earl Mountbatten by an IRA bomb in 1979, she said matter-of-factly: “I’ve been informed that the IRA have a new sort of sniper sight that sees through the mist”, then carried on riding. In 1981, when a 17-year-old gunman fired six shots at her from the crowd before Trooping the Colour, the monarch “kept her horse under control, patted it and insisted on carrying on with the ceremony”. She only found out later the bullets were blanks. And when a concrete block was dropped on her car from a tower block in Belfast, prompting shock from her fellow passengers, the Queen simply said: “It’s a strong car.”


The Queen received plenty of unusual gifts during her life. When she was less than a year old, her parents returned from a trip to Australia with three tons of presents, including 20 live parrots. On her marriage to Prince Philip, the pair received a thoroughbred filly from the Aga Khan and a hunting lodge in Kenya on behalf of the country’s population. Some offerings were more comical: a lady from Brooklyn sent a turkey, because “they have nothing to eat in England”. Gandhi gave the Queen a woven tray cloth that he had made himself. The Queen’s grandmother – no friend of the Indian independence leader – claimed it was a loincloth. “Such an indelicate gift,” she said. “What a horrible thing.”


quoted 10.9.22

“Lovely, inspiring. All the film people in the world, if they had scoured the globe, could not have found anyone so suited to the part.”

Winston Churchill


The Queen was the subject of “countless paintings and pictures”, says Artnet, some more controversial than others. Among the more eccentric portraits are Lucien Freud’s miniature canvas, Chris Levine’s striking shot of the Queen blinking, and Andy Warhol’s pop-art print. The most experimental pieces often elicited rather derisive criticism. George Condo’s cartoonish painting was nicknamed “The Cabbage Patch Queen” by disgruntled critics, and Justin Mortimer’s 1997 abstract portrait was printed in the Daily Mail under the headline: “Silly Artist Cuts Off the Queen’s Head”.

Staying young

“I’m as strong as a horse”

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.

Long reads shortened

Planning for “London Bridge”

The first plans for what would happen when the Queen died “date back to the 1960s”, says Sam Knight in The Guardian. Ever since, the various parties involved – “around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks” – have been meeting two or three times a year to refine the protocols, codenamed “London Bridge”. They involve “arcane and highly specific knowledge”. A slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall takes 28 minutes. The coffin “must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high”. Succession is, and has always been, “part of the job”. Queen Victoria had decided on the contents of her coffin 26 years before her death. “The Queen mother’s funeral was rehearsed for 22 years.”


On her desk in Windsor Castle, Elizabeth II kept one of the “Solar Queen” statuettes popularised by her Diamond Jubilee. “It drives me mad,” she told her cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson. “The sun comes out and it goes ‘click, click, click’ and I see myself waving to me!” Get yours here.

Inside politics

Putting prime ministers in their place

The Queen’s 15 prime ministers were often taken aback by how prepared she was for their weekly meetings, says The Daily Telegraph. Harold Wilson said he felt like an “unprepared schoolboy” when he couldn’t answer one of her questions in their first chat. Harold Macmillan said she displayed an “uncanny knowledge of details and personalities”. Nor did the Queen shy away from putting the leaders in their place. In her first tête-à-tête with Tony Blair, she pointed out that she had been the sovereign for longer than he’d been alive. When James Callaghan asked her for advice, she replied: “That’s for you to decide. That is what you are paid for.”


Quoted 10.9.22

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

The Queen