Queen Elizabeth II

by Brian Hoey


When she was born on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in London’s Mayfair, the family home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, it was the only time a future Queen would be born in a private house, not a palace or a castle. And for those who like to know such things, the year of her birth also saw the appearance for the first time on London’s streets of red telephone boxes, which later became ubiquitous.

An ordinary woman who has found herself in an extraordinary position

The Queen’s public image is recognised in every country on earth, but very few people know the person behind the regal smile, the courtly wave. We have all seen her in a variety of guises: on countless stamps, coins and banknotes; dressed in her formal robes at the State Opening of Parliament.

Since 1987 she has appeared at the ceremony in ordinary day clothes (but wearing the regimental badge) and travels by carriage, as she no longer rides on horseback at the head of her troops. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see her at closer quarters in her own home when she acts as hostess to several thousand guests during one of the summer Garden Parties. Each image is different and each of us has a view about the woman who has been our Queen since 1952.

The Queen has a natural dignity and, of course, perfect manners. One of her longest-serving courtiers said the reason why Her Majesty might sometimes come across as cold is that she has the very English reserve that appears to border on indifference, and to some outsiders this is seen as arrogance, a characteristic she certainly does not possess. She is completely without prejudice, treating everyone the same, no matter where they come from or their station in life. She is as likely to stop and chat with one of her stable-lads as with the Archbishop of Canterbury – probably more likely as they would have more in common. She bestows her friendship cautiously, but once given it is there for life and she regards loyalty as by far the most important of personal qualities.

 The Queen’s public image is recognised in every country on earth, but very few people know the person behind the regal smile

Her Majesty has performed her role as sovereign with flawless professionalism since the day she acceded to the throne aged just 25. During that time she has served longer than any Pope; any US president; or any British Prime Minister.

The Queen’s first Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, invited himself to Balmoral during the first year of her reign. At 78 he was by far the oldest guest; the Queen was only 26 at the time but he reminded Her Majesty that he had also been a guest there of King Edward VII, Her Majesty’s great-grandfather, with whom he shared similar tastes in fine cigars and very large brandies.

The Queen has served her country with dignity and devotion

In the 70 years she has been on the throne, The Queen has never put a foot wrong in her public or private life. An affectionate wife, loving mother (with two more children, Andrew and Edward, being born while she was Queen), a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother – these characteristics have never impinged on her devotion to duty. This is the quality she possesses above all others. In many ways she has sacrificed a normal family life to the demands of public office.

The Queen has served her country with dignity and devotion and has borne the marital problems of her late sister and three of her children with fortitude. She has also been forced to accept the deep sadness of the loss of her sister, mother and, of course, her beloved husband, Prince Philip, who died just weeks before his 100th birthday. A very private woman by inclination, she has been forced to live most of her life in the full glare of public attention. It is not a position she has found to her liking, but one she has accepted with grace and dignity, or, as Prince Philip used to say, ‘It goes with the job.’

Elizabeth II is a remarkable woman – or as she once put it, ‘An ordinary woman who has found herself in an extraordinary position.’ She is, quite simply, the perfect example of a constitutional monarch. She is unique, in her mid 90s, to still be a working sovereign and clearly a woman who continues to fulfil her destiny. She is The Queen.

NorthernLife May/June 2022.

Extracted from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Celebration: 70 Years: 1952–2022 by Brian Hoey, published by Pitkin.