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Elizabeth II 1926-2022 | A family puzzle

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We knew everything about the public figure. Photographed from all angles for nearly a century, Elizabeth II was – by far – the most recognizable figure of her time. But what did we know about the wife, the wife, the mother or the grandmother?

Posted at 13:51

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Jean-Christophe Laurence
The print

Throughout her years on the throne, the Queen of England managed to remain relatively secret, information about her privacy only leaked in a trickle despite media pressure. A contrast that will lead some journalists to qualify this character, both distant and omnipresent, as a “family enigma”.

“He was the latest representative of a certain vision of the monarchy. She represented that period in the past when royalty was a matter of deference, respect and mystical. It is obvious that Charles does not have the same relationship with this decorum inherited from the medieval monarchy, which the queen had managed to maintain so well, ”emphasizes Anna Whitelock, historian of the monarchy and lecturer at the University of London.

She liked Special K

From what little is known, it seems that Elizabeth had, on the fringes of her sumptuous public life, relatively modest tastes, which some have sometimes called “middle class”.

Like most of his subjects, he loved tea, Special K cereals, jam sandwiches, cheese (with celery, please) and the chocolate cake, without forgetting the shot of gin, the Dubonnet or the martini that her husband made her every now and then.

Like many Brits, he listened to the radio (especially the public broadcaster BBC), read the Daily telegraph and loved English TV classics, like Way of the Coronation And Hercule Poirot.

Little fond of opera or literature, she was instead fond of photography, taking her little Leica on most of her travels.

His taste for rural chic and for animals was more refined. From her first pony, received at the age of 4, Elisabeth has developed a passion for horse riding and horse breeding. It is known that most of her reading, when it was not political documents, revolved around the subject and that she consulted the magazine regularly. Horses and hounds.


PHOTO STEVE PARSONS, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVE

Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in July 2021

She was also crazy about her little dogs, purebred Corgis, and would have owned more than thirty over the years.

A special sense of family

On the personal front, she was said to be very family oriented.

Upon Lady Di’s death, the monarch would have given way to her grandmother, retiring from the world with Harry and William, a gesture that the general public will reproach her, confusing this retreat with indifference. “However, at the time, she was just a protective grandmother,” says Anna Whitelock.

The mother may have been a little less involved.

Taken by her duties and her travels, the young queen would not always have been very present for her children, especially for the firstborn, who will finally ascend the throne, after a very 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 a lot of the Prince of Wales’ problems were caused by his childhood. She was more concerned about the kingdom and she didn’t really care about him. Her father was also demanding and often disappointed with him. As a result, Charles was never a very confident man. ”

“Also, if I had to say who was her favorite member of her family, I’d say her dogs, before her children,” adds M.myself Junor, a smile in his voice.


PHOTO ANDREW MILLIGAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVE

Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow in June 2021

mysterious personality

Finally, his personality has been a mystery to many people. If he publicly presented the image of a neutral woman, a kind of white screen that allowed people to project their moods, it was obviously different in private.

This was partly the reason for its success. The fact that she had no personality, at least publicly, made it almost impossible not to like her.

Penny Junor, author of several books on the royal family

According to Penny Junor, who has dedicated two books to the queen, Elizabeth only began to show her true personality late, when the future of the royal family seemed assured to her.

“He started to relax a bit since the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Because he saw that, finally, everything was fine. That he, his son, had regained popularity, that he had married the woman he loved and that the country had accepted him, ”says the writer.

Unthinkable until then, Elisabeth then revealed an aspect of her character hitherto reserved for her more or less immediate entourage: 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 nastier aspects of this basically smiling woman.

Watch the short film shot with Daniel Craig at the London Games

We can see the queen following the one who later embodied James Bond in the cinema, boarding a helicopter with her two dogs, then parachuting as she flies over the Olympic Park. A replacement, of course, but the fact that her Highness took part in the first part of this production shows, according to Penny Junor, that she was “young at heart and of good composition. [good fun]. ”

Everyone who has met her finally talks about a lively woman, capable of talking about anything and everything, in French if necessary, not hesitating to take a little more time with certain people if the subject is of particular interest to him. Queen of England, but also queen of Chatter.

We don’t know much more, except that Elisabeth wrote her diary every night. What was she writing there? Her confidences? Her thoughts on the world? These writings, if they are revealed one day, will surely fill the part of mystery that she carries with her to her grave.

Philip, his accomplice


PHOTO ANDRÉ HÉBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on a visit to Montreal in 1959

While her relationship with her children has often been described as cold, her relationship has obviously been more successful. Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were united for 74 years from their marriage on November 20, 1947, until Philip’s death on April 9, 2021. This marital choice would initially have displeased Elizabeth’s parents, who had opposed it. We will probably never know how they fared in private, but their performances in public suggest a certain connivance, Anna Whitelock believes. “He was always a step behind her. She always relied on him. She was an important partner, which was part of the equation. I think her role has been underestimated. “

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