If there’s one thing Queen Elizabeth can’t stand, it’s unnecessary drama. The long-reigning monarch has made a career out of perfecting her stiff upper lip and staying calm even in the face of extreme trouble. That’s why the revelation that the queen was distraught by her children’s divorces is so intriguing.
The report comes courtesy of an upcoming biography about Her Majesty called “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Queen Elizabeth II.” Author Robert Hardman delved into the distress the queen felt upon learning that the marriages of three out of her four children would end in divorce.
“Outwardly stoical, as ever, the Queen was finding the divorce talks deeply upsetting,” Hardman says in the book, according to People. The biography will be released April 5.
“Another former member of the Household recalls that, every now and then, there would be a glimpse of her despair.”
“It distressed her much more than she let on,” a former staffer told the royal biographer. “I said, ‘Ma’am, it seems to be happening everywhere. This is almost common practice.’ But she just said, ‘Three out of four!’ in sheer sadness and exasperation. One shouldn’t underestimate the pain she’s been through.”
Royal followers will no doubt remember the queen saying 1992 was one of her worst years, calling it the annus horribilis.
In one single year, Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated (though they wouldn’t formally divorce until years later). Andrew Morton’s biography was released, revealing dark secrets about Princess Diana including bulimia and self-mutilation. Princess Anne divorced Captain Mark Philips and then remarried in the same year.
As if that’s not enough, Prince Andrew’s estranged wife Sarah Ferguson was caught topless and having her toes sucked, which horrified the strictly image-conscious royal family. There was also a significant fire at Windsor Castle.
“I don’t remember a single occasion when I went to see her and she exclaimed, ‘No! What next?’” the queen’s former press secretary Charles Anson told Hardman. “The issue was sometimes embarrassing, but she got on with it. It is immensely reassuring in those situations to work for someone who isn’t knocked back.”
However, the queen managed to keep everything in stride. The former press secretary said she was, “never short; never irritable; completely steady.”
The queen was apparently following her mother’s example of never appearing ruffled or emotional in public, which is such a classic British stereotype. This mentality carried over to Charles and Diana’s disastrous divorce.
“Her mother’s strategy in these situations — to carry on as if they were not happening — had earned her the nickname ‘imperial ostrich’ among royal staff,” Hardman wrote in the biography. “The Queen’s response, as ever, was to follow the example of her father, absorbed from his days at sea, and to treat adversity like the ocean.”
A close contact of the queen’s named Sir Major John told Hardman, “Storms will come and go, some worse than others. But she will always put her head down and plough through them. The Queen has always lived by the doctrine, ‘This too shall pass.’”
He continued, “While the Queen has sometimes been accused of being slow to act, there has never been a charge of panic. Her default mode in the face of a crisis is stillness.”
This strategy has served Queen Elizabeth well through seven decades serving as queen with countless tragedies befalling her and her family.
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