We knew everything about the public figure. Photographed from all angles for almost a century, Elizabeth II was – by far – the most recognizable figure of her time. But what did we know about the wife, wife, mother or grandmother?
Posted at 1:51 p.m
Throughout her years on the throne, the Queen of England has managed to remain relatively secret, information about her privacy only leaking in tiny trickles despite media pressure. A contrast that will lead some journalists to call this character, both distant and ubiquitous, a “known enigma”.
“She was the last representative of a certain vision of the monarchy. She represented that time in the past when kingship was a matter of reverence, respect and mysticism. It is evident that Charles does not have the same relationship with that decency inherited from the medieval monarchy that the Queen was so good at maintaining,” points out Anna Whitelock, historian of the monarchy and professor at the University of London.
She liked Special K
From what is little known, it appears that on the fringes of her lavish public life, Elizabeth had relatively modest tastes that some have sometimes described as “middle class”.
Like most of her subjects, she loved tea, Special-K cereal, jam sandwiches, cheese (with celery, You’re welcome) and the chocolate cake, without forgetting the glass of gin, dubonnet or martini that her husband occasionally made for her.
Like many Britons, she listened to the radio (particularly the BBC public broadcaster), read Daily Telegraph and loved English television classics such as Coronation Street and Hercule Poirot.
She loved neither opera nor literature, but loved photography and took her small Leica camera with her on most of her trips.
His taste for country chic and animals was more sophisticated. Since her first pony, which she got at the age of 4, Elisabeth developed a passion for riding and breeding horses. It is known that most of her reading, other than political documents, was on the subject and that she consulted the journal regularly Horses & Dogs.
She was also crazy about her small dogs, purebred corgis, and would have owned more than thirty over the years.
A special family feeling
On the personal front, she is said to have been very family-oriented.
At the death of Lady Di, the monarch would have given up her place to the grandmother and retired from the world with Harry and William, a gesture that the general public will accuse her of, confusing this retreat with indifference. “She was just a protective grandmother back then though,” says Anna Whitelock.
The mother was perhaps a little less invested.
Caught up by her functions and her travels, the young queen has not always been very present to her children, especially her eldest, who will finally ascend the throne after a long wait.
“She could have been a better mother,” says British author Penny Junor, who has written several books about the royal family. “I believe some of the Prince of Wales’ problems were caused by his childhood. She was more concerned with the kingdom and didn’t really care about him. His father was also demanding and often disappointed in him. As a result, Charles was never a very confident man. »
“Besides, if I had to say who the favorite member of his family was, I would say his dogs before his children,” adds Mme Junor, a smile in his voice.
Finally, his personality was a mystery to many people. If she publicly presented the image of a neutral woman, a kind of blank canvas on which people could project their own moods, privately it was obviously different.
This was partly the reason for its success. That she had no personality, at least in public, made it almost impossible not to like her.
Penny Junor, author of several books on the royal family
According to Penny Junor, who dedicated two books to the Queen, Elizabeth revealed her true personality late in life, when the future of the royal family seemed secure.
“From the 2012 Diamond Jubilee, she started to relax a bit. Because she saw that finally everything was fine. That his son had regained popularity, that he had married the woman he loved and that the country accepted him,” says the writer.
Unthinkable until then, Elisabeth then revealed a facet of her character that had previously been reserved for her more or less immediate surroundings: her sense of humor.
For Penny Junor, her performance with actor Daniel Craig at the opening of the London 2012 Olympics says a lot about the sassiest aspects of this basically smiling woman.
Watch the short film made to celebrate the London Games starring Daniel Craig
We can see the Queen following the one who played James Bond in the cinema at the time, boarding a helicopter with her two dogs and then parachuting over the Olympic Park. An understudy, of course, but the fact that Her Highness was in the first part of this production shows that, according to Penny Junor, she was “young at heart and of fine composition”. [good fun]. »
After all, everyone who has met her speaks of a lively woman who can talk about anything and everything, if necessary in French, and is not afraid to spend a little more time with some people if the topic interests him particularly. Queen of England, but also Queen of small talk.
We don’t know much else, except that Elisabeth wrote her diary every evening. What did she write there? His confidences? His thoughts about the world? These writings, when someday revealed, will surely fill that part of the mystery she takes with her to her grave.
Philip, his accomplice
If his relationship with his children was often described as cold, his relationship as a couple was obviously more successful. Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were united for 74 years, from their marriage on 20 November 1947 to Philip’s death on 9 April 2021. This marriage choice would initially have displeased Elizabeth’s parents, who opposed it. How she and he got along in private we’ll probably never know, but Anna Whitelock believes their public portrayals suggest a certain tolerance. “He was always a step behind her. She always relied on him. It was an important partner that was part of the equation. I think his role was underestimated. »