Intimate peek into the royals | Daily News

Intimate peek into the royals

Now in their 90s — though with the mental alertness and physical fitness of a couple many years younger — the Queen and Prince Philip are in uncharted waters.

As they prepare to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on November 20, they know they have rewritten the record books. The 91-year-old Queen is now the longest reigning British monarch in history, and her husband is the oldest-ever male member of the Royal Family.

At the age of 96, Philip finally retired from royal duties in August. Shortly after his decision was announced, 88-year-old mathematician Michael Atiyah said to him at a lunch: 'I'm sorry to hear you're standing down.'

According to the couturier who made the outfit the Queen wore to Prince Andrew's wedding in 1986, she blushed when it prompted a rare compliment from her husband of nearly 40 years

'Well, I can't stand up much longer,' said the Prince. It was the type of dry and humorous response we've learned to expect from Philip.

Indeed, he and the Queen have been part of our lives for so long that we imagine we know them. But do we really?

After many years of writing about the Royal Family — I've met both the Queen and Philip on many occasions — I feel I've had a unique insight into their lives: and what I've discovered is that there's a great deal more to them than their popular image suggests.

In public, for instance, the Queen is often unsmiling; it's as if her royal duties, which she's always undertaken with the utmost gravity and dedication, preclude her ever seeing the lighter side of life. In private, however, she can be quite different.

Top dogs: When the Queen is at one of her estates, her cogis go, too - with fillet steak and chicken breast on the menu

Both the Queen and Prince Philip are very attached to their staff, who are like an extended part of the family. And they often take a sympathetic attitude to them when they land in trouble.

On one occasion, Philip noticed that a certain footman had been missing for a few days and asked his page where he had got to. 'He was sacked, Sir,' the page informed him.

Philip wanted to know what the man had done to deserve to be fired.

'I am afraid they found him in bed with one of the housemaids, Sir,' the page replied. 'And they sacked him?' the Duke said, outraged. 'They should have given him a medal!'

Unexpectedly, she has a well-developed sense of humour. This surfaced during an early trip to America, when she hilariously mimicked the U.S. photographers who were ever-present.

Deciding to do some filming of her own, she pointed her camera at Philip and cried out in a nasal American voice: 'Hey! You there! Hey, Dook! Look this way a sec! Dat's it! Thanks a lot!'

In her old age, she still relies on humour to leaven potentially serious situations. On the weekend of her Diamond Jubilee, when Philip was taken into hospital as a precautionary measure for a bladder infection, she was heard to quip: 'Don't die on me. Not now, anyway!'

Surprisingly, too, it was the Queen who was keenest on doing the rather undignified stunt that was filmed for the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games.

This involved her appearing in her first acting role — as a Bond girl opposite 007 star Daniel Craig — at Buckingham Palace, and then seeming to parachute into the Olympic stadium. Philip was extremely dubious about the whole thing. Needless to say, however, she wouldn't have done it if he hadn't eventually given his approval.

His own wry and sometimes ribald sense of humour has been a crucial factor in the marriage. From the very start, he's always been able to make his wife laugh. In the Fifties, the young Queen would freeze before TV cameras, but he'd diffuse the tension with an amusing aside to bring a smile to her face.

When you're under a constant spotlight, as she has been for almost her entire life, this makes a vital difference.

Having come from a sheltered background, the Queen was still painfully shy in her 20s. During her first Commonwealth tour of Australia in 1954, there were times when it all became overwhelming.

At 28, she'd been Queen for only two years and the responsibility still terrified and confused her.

But with Philip at her side, she felt she'd always be able to cope.He made her see the funny side of situations, and he was often the only person she could talk to in a superficial vein about what they'd seen and done; she didn't have to be on her guard with him, worrying in case she might say the wrong thing or create the wrong impression.

Haven't we met before? The Queen breaks out in a smile after walking past Prince Philip dressed in full uniform, including a bearskin, at Buckingham Palace in 2005

He gave her some much-needed courage when she was meeting the hundreds of people who were waiting for her.

Occasionally, Philip's sense of the ridiculous has led to one of his famous gaffes — risky remarks that he makes partly to liven things up, get a reaction or because he's bored stiff.

One of the chief reasons for these so-called gaffes is less well understood: he simply wants to make the Queen laugh.

Better than anyone, Philip knows that she never really conquered her shyness. She may have met more strangers in her life than almost anyone else on the planet, but her conversational skills remain minimal.

It's usually only with people who are interested in racing or breeding thoroughbred horses that she can be animated and chatty.

- Daily Mail


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