For a woman who has spent a lifetime rubbing shoulders (well, not literally, one understands) with the world’s richest, most famous and most powerful, the Queen’s own life has been ‘oddly powerless.’
Beyond signing papers, agreeing to requests, asking tactful questions, listening sympathetically and making the right, polite noises, she has remained unable to voice her own opinions.
So, given the chance, what would our most regal, inscrutable and imperious of monarchs really like to tell her subjects?
Journalist and author Terence Blacker’s affectionately imagined letters from Her Majesty to a retired personal adviser take us on a right royal flight of wry, funny and enchantingly far-fetched fancy.
In a series of confessions and confidences, E.R. reveals what she really thinks about attitudes to her family, about the Prime Ministers she has met, about the great, the good and the mysteriously famous people she meets as she goes about her duties.
From forthright comments on actress Dame Helen Mirren to why dogs are superior to cats and the truth about Prince Philip and his terrible jokes, the Queen gets implausibly but irrepressibly candid on the way we live now, as seen from the very top.
As she looks back over the year between the London Olympics and the birth of her great-grandson Prince George, HM spills the beans on the celebrities who are in Prince Charles’s ‘kitchen cabinet,’ how the Archbishop of Canterbury got his beard in a twist, meetings with Clinton, Bush, Berlusconi and other dubious men and even the story of Fergie’s disastrous practical joke involving cling film.
We learn how tiring she found the Olympics and not just because the filming of the ‘comic turn’ involving 007 at Buckingham Palace took longer than expected because there was ‘much fussing over James Bond’s hair.’
There was also the discovery that ‘being cheerful and relaxed, and yet dignified’ is surprisingly hard work compared to the accepted routine in which she behaves like her normal self and everyone knows where they stand. ‘I am the Queen, they are the subjects.’
Other events caused fewer surprises… the ‘over-excited headlines’ and ‘nudging puns’ when Catherine and William announced they were expecting, Prince Harry ‘in trouble again’ and reports of the ‘latest political goings-on.’
Wickedly frank and deliciously subversive – Zara is ‘twice the horsewoman Anne ever was, but don’t quote me’ – this is the Queen as we have never seen or heard her before.
Sometimes pleasure simply has to come before duty…
(Headline, hardback, £9.99)