This week marked the time that Queen Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest serving monarch. There was some confusion over exactly when this happened because if you simply added up the years and the number of days in the current year you left out the factor of leap years. 1900, for example, was divisible by four but was not marked as a leap year. Anyway that does not matter as she has certainly now gone past her great grandmother Queen Victoria. I blogged on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (see my blog Long to Reign Over Us
) and so this time want to focus on the things she has said.
One has to tread carefully here because The Queen is very careful about what she says in public and what she says in private remains private. If anyone claims to be her friend and starts spilling the beans they would very quickly become a non-friend. But there is much on the public record and it is not all dry and stilted. Her official speeches are very carefully prepared with her Private Secretary and then passed by Her Majesty’s Government. But some of her less formal comments have also been recorded and here she displays considerable wit and humour. She is also reported to have a gift for mimicry but that has to be taken as read in a blog like this.
“My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all.” Her first address to the nation during the Second World War aged 14, October 1940.
“I declare before you that all my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” 21st birthday speech, April 21, 1947
“I’m sorry for that little interlude. But as you know it happens in every marriage.” After being filmed arguing with Prince Philip before a photo call, March 1954 during a royal tour of Australia
“We might well expect it to have four feet.” Joking about the first pregnancy of her equestrian daughter Princess Anne, 1977
“Mrs Thatcher never listens to a word I say.” Apparently said while Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister
“I myself prefer my New Zealand eggs for breakfast.” After she had eggs thrown at her during a walkabout in Wellington, New Zealand, 1986
“Like all best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.” A comment reportedly made in a private conversation in 1989
“I have to be seen to be believed.” Date and location unknown
“1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’.” Speech November 1992
“First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. I admired and respected her – for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys.” Speech following the death of Diana, September 5, 1997
“He has quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.” About Prince Philip in a speech for their Golden wedding at Banqueting House, London, November, 1997
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” In a letter to the British ambassador to Washington following the September 11 terror attacks
“The British constitution has always been puzzling and always will be.” Overheard after she watched a seminar about the British constitution at Queen Mary College
“We are a moderate, pragmatic people, more comfortable with practice than theory.” Speech in reply to addresses from both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall 2002, her Golden Jubilee year.
“Have you been playing a long time?” To Eric Clapton at a Buckingham Palace reception in March 2005, 40 years after his first hit record as lead guitarist in The Yardbirds
“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.” From the Queen’s Christmas message in 2008
“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.” Speech at Irish State Dinner, May 18, 2011
“Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.” Diamond Jubilee address to Parliament at Westminster Hall, March 2012
“So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second Sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.” Address to both Houses of Parliament in Diamond Jubilee year, March 2012
“Horrible…it’s made to look very creepy.” About the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress on display in Buckingham Palace, July 2012
“Oh, dear, I hope it wasn’t anyone important.” Reportedly said to Clare Short after her then government minister’s phone rang in her handbag during a Privy Council meeting
I have never had the chance to meet her although I have seen her many times, first at my school fifty years ago when she visited to help us celebrate its 450th anniversary, then on numerous occasions at Royal Ascot, and most recently at one of her famous Buckingham Palace Garden parties to which I had the opportunity to go with my family. I have met all her children on a number of occasions and had the pleasure to work with Prince Charles for several years. Through the Prince’s Trust he has probably helped more young people into work than any government scheme. I worked with him on the launch of Duchy Originals
which were conceived to set a good example to British farmers, address the problem of the balance of payments in food, demonstrate that organic food products could sell, and make profits for his charities.
My daughter has had the honour to meet Her Majesty because she worked in the Queen’s Gallery for a year or so. It is the custom of The Queen and Prince Philip to give Christmas presents to all their staff. Through a mix-up my daughter missed hers and so she was invited to the Buckingham Palace staff Christmas party. Here Michelle picks up the story:
“The Queen and Prince Philip were ushered round the many guests. It was quite informal. I was standing with a group of colleagues and the Queen came towards us. Nervously we all curtseyed. She then asked 'Are you enjoying working in the Palace garden this year?' We all smiled and nodded. She then went on to tell us that there was an owl in the garden scaring her corgis! She did an owl impression 'towit tawoo!' We all laughed and were taken aback by her impression. She was so vibrant and funny; we didn't expect meeting the Queen would be so humorous. She made us feel completely at ease. It was a magical day I'll never forget :-).”