The Queen behind the scenes: The Mail's Robert Hardman was given unique access to follow Her Majesty | Mail Online
On 17 March ITV in Britain is broadcasting 'The Queen
', a two hour "in depth portrait" of Elizabeth II made during the Diamond Jubilee year.
Robert Hardman, a correspondent for the Mail
was involved and has written the companion-piece book.
I've picked out three excerpts: the Queen's audiences with her Prime Ministers (in which King Constantine has a small role), the red boxes, and State Banquets.
Audience with PM David Cameron
Suddenly, an equerry appears at the door in a tweed jacket and tie with a suited Prime Minister. ‘The Prime Minister, Your Majesty,’ he announces and withdraws. David Cameron strides in confidently, almost glowing after a bracing day’s fishing and walking on the Balmoral estate. The Queen steers him to a cosy armchair in front of a rather uncosy fireplace (where an electric heater has taken the place of a log fire).
And so begins that cornerstone of Britain’s unwritten constitution – the private chat between hereditary head of state and elected head of government.
...[At Balmoral] Every prime minister since Churchill has sat in this room, mulling over the state of the nation – preceded by a natter about the Highlands. ‘I really enjoyed my time down on the river,’ says David Cameron. ‘Probably too bright for fishing, really,’ muses the Queen, who knows the River Dee better than anyone. These are chatty encounters, not formulaic rituals. They were much less congenial in the days of Queen Victoria, who would shut herself away at Glas Allt Shiel, her remote hideaway miles up the glen. As the Queen reflects wryly just before Mr Cameron’s arrival, ‘She used to make the prime minister come up and see her there.’ When prime ministers and their spouses arrive at Balmoral these days, they are part of the family house party and all its traditions, not least Prince Philip’s famous barbecues.
In the new play, "The Audience", Helen Mirren’s fictional Queen apparently falls asleep as David Cameron attempts to brief her on the euro. In Our Queen, we see what happens when the euro really does crop up during another prime ministerial audience, this time at Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s response? She is anything but bored. In fact, when Mr Cameron does start to brief her on the latest Eurozone crisis and the upcoming Greek election, she lets slip that she has been discussing it with a local expert. ‘The King did ring me,’ she tells Mr Cameron. ‘He’s very worried about it.’
As successive prime ministers have learned, the Queen is genuinely interested in this stuff. Patronise her at your peril.
The red boxes
The film also includes the first television interview with a serving private secretary to the Queen. Wherever she is in the world, the Queen is always accompanied by one of her trio of private secretaries, her most senior advisers. They are the main conduit between the Monarch and the state and, aside from the Queen herself, are the only people with keys to her red boxes.
As he prepares to fill another one with state papers in need of attention or a signature, Edward Young, the deputy private secretary, explains that he and his colleagues do give the Queen a day off from her red boxes – but not often. ‘It is a 365 – pretty much – day-a-year monarchy, because that’s how it is,’ says Mr Young. ‘As a rule, Christmas Day is a day when there isn’t a red box and just occasionally on the Queen’s birthday as well. But I’m afraid that’s it.’
As Buckingham Palace prepares to welcome its latest state visitor, the President of Indonesia, we see that the Queen is as rigorous as ever as she inspects the preparations. Surveying the dazzling state banquet table, she makes sure the unsightly microphones – for the pre-dinner speeches – are well-disguised by the foliage.
Despite hosting more dinners for more world leaders than any sovereign in history, the Queen is still endearingly impressed by the magic of a state banquet. At one point, she stands back to take in the scene. Just for a moment, she could be one of the 500,000 tourists who flock through the Palace each year as she murmurs proudly, "Grand!"