Ruling with humour

Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker

During one of the many discussions I’ve had over the last few days following the death of Her Majesty The Queen, my husband referred me to an article on the BBC website which has only managed to cite six occasions when she made us laugh. It says, ‘The Queen’s role in public life was tightly choreographed and she often had to keep a straight face.’ 

This does her a disservice as the Queen smiled and laughed a lot. Check out the copious pictures and newsreels. Some of it may have been ‘rehearsed’ but still had the same effect on her public. I’m also pretty sure she made us laugh or smile many more than six times. I saw another side – the twinkly mischievous Elizabeth with a wry sense of humour, which helped her through the hardest of times as well as the good.

I experienced this first hand when I had the privilege of meeting the Queen in an unusual and informal situation. Way before Funny Women was even a ‘thing’ I had a communications role with The Prince’s Trust so I worked in relatively close proximity to the Royal family who, at the time, were rebuilding public confidence in the wake of Diana, Princess of Wales’s death in 1997.

In 1998 I was despatched to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), that year held in Edinburgh, and one of my duties was to ensure that the rightful performers, celebrities and overseas guests and officials attending a charity gala for The Prince’s Trust were presented to the attendant Royals after the show.

In the run up to the big night I accompanied a tour bus full of leading British and overseas Royal correspondents who had been invited to meet members of the Royal Family at Holyrood Palace. On arrival we were briefed by Dickie Arbiter, Her Majesty’s trusted media advisor at the time, about Royal protocols before we were all formally presented to the Queen, Prince Philip, and the Princess Royal.

After the formalities we were shown into a lovely drawing room at the Palace and served afternoon tea. As we precariously balanced our cups, saucers and tea plates, I was chatting with a group of women journalists, about the intricacies of juggling child care arrangements with work during the half-term holiday, which was when CHOGM was taking place that year.

None of us noticed the Royal party entering the room to join us until a familiar voice proclaimed, ‘Well, of course it’s the same for Charles now that he’s a single parent…’ The Queen had joined in our conversation!

Always one for filling up an awkward silence, I asked after the (now) King and the two Princes and eventually we all conversed with the Queen in a relaxed informal style, women to women. She was full of humour and, despite the restrictions and formality of her duties, proved to us all that she was informed, interested and empathetic.

The Queen was a remarkable woman – honest, dignified, clever AND funny. I can vouch for this having met her in an informal environment. Publicly we’ve now seen those ‘twinkly’ bits in action, as personified by her antics with James Bond and Paddington Bear – you don’t do this sort of the without a sense of humour.

And despite what the BBC article says, I think she’s made many people laugh throughout her long reign away from the crowds and the cameras. The secret of her long and fulfilling life maybe.

RIP Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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