Queen Elizabeth: 'The Diamond Jubilee? She dreads the ship thing - Telegraph
There is no barometer subtle enough to register the Queen’s mood as she approaches her Diamond Jubilee
, but her friend and cousin, Margaret Rhodes, is doing her best to take a reliable reading. “Excitement is not quite the right word,” she says. “I think there might be a tiny shred or two of mild dread. She slightly dreads the ship thing, rather as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother slightly dreaded celebrating her 100th birthday. There’s a sense of 'am I going to get through it all’?”
By “the ship thing”, Mrs Rhodes means the day the Thames sheds its greyness and erupts in pageantry, with a flotilla of 1,000 boats fussing behind the gilded royal barge Gloriana as she makes a stately progress from Battersea Bridge to the Tower of London. For her sovereign passenger, June 3 will be the high-water mark of public affection. “I have often said to her that it must be warming the cockles of her heart to see the amount of enthusiasm there is for her reign,” says Mrs Rhodes. “And what an extraordinary reign it has turned out to be.”
No one living this side of Buckingham Palace railings is better qualified to make an informed guess about Jubilee jitters than Margaret Rhodes. The Queen drops in on her after Matins in the chapel at Windsor Great Park on a Sunday morning. Over a drink, the two grandmothers chat about their families and what’s been in the papers.
Mrs Rhodes suggests that when the young Princess began to understand the consequences of the Abdication, she hoped for a brother. “I believe she hoped she might have one and be let off the hook, but deep down she knew that wasn’t very likely. She accepted that she would be Queen one day, but thought it was a long way off. Sadly, it came to her much sooner than she expected.
The thing that has characterised her reign is the conscious self-sacrifice, of any form of private life. It was an incredible thing, at the age of 21, to envisage a whole life ahead of you, where your own choices are not followed, where you know what you are going to be doing every day of the week for months ahead and where spontaneity goes out of the window. If she hadn’t been born the way she was, you know, she could have been a country landowner surrounded by dogs and horses, blissfully happy.”
Margaret Rhodes has always been the first to shoot down any rumours that the Queen has considered abdicating, and now she sees her relaxed as never before. “When she’s really interested in something, she looks rather po-faced, but when the smile lights up, it’s like the sun coming out. She must derive pleasure – or work-satisfaction, if nothing else.” One key to the Queen’s mental toughness in difficult times, says Mrs Rhodes, is her ability to compartmentalise. “It’s as if she’s got lots of little rooms in her brain and she can shut the door on the worry ones, so she can concentrate on being a good hostess or doing a public engagement.” Her other strength is the Duke of Edinburgh. “He has been an absolute rock for her,” she says.