When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepped out at the Top Gun: Maverick premiere last week, there was no doubting the future of the monarchy is in safe hands. Kate was the picture of elegance in a monochrome Roland Mouret dress, while dashing William looked full of admiration for his wife as they posed together on the red carpet in London’s Leicester Square.
The royal pair were joined by a very glamorous wingman – the film’s star Tom Cruise. Ever the gentleman, Tom, 59, offered his arm to the duchess as she struggled with the steps at the cinema. Tom even opened up about all he has in common with William during the evening. “We both love England and we’re both aviators – we both love flying,” he said.
And in a nod to the much-loved Top Gun films, William even wore a pair of aeroplane embroidered velvet smoking slippers.
Kate and William’s rapturous reception came days after the Queen herself made a surprise appearance at Paddington Station to see the completed Elizabeth Line, named in her honour. There had been increasing fears for Her Majesty’s health after she was unable to give the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords earlier this month. But, dressed in canary yellow and sporting a jaunty hat, the Queen was all smiles as she and the Earl of Wessex met Prime Minister Boris Johnson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the station. While frail, she was walking with the aid of a walking stick and seemed in good spirits.
Meanwhile, over in Canada, the Prince of Wales was carrying out a three-day tour with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. The pair met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and visited Newfoundland and Ottawa as part of their trip to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.
On Wednesday, Kate and Sophie, Countess of Wessex stood in for the Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party, showing once again how Her Majesty is increasingly relaxed about letting senior royals take the strain for her. Kate even looked like she was channelling her style in a coral coat dress by Emilia Wickstead.
After a difficult couple of years, during which the pandemic prevented the royal family getting out and about, it’s a relief to see The Firm back in the full swing of things. Now, they are gearing up for the main event in just under two weeks’ time, when the nation will spend a long weekend celebrating 70 years of the Queen’s reign.
Andrew Morton, author of new biography The Queen, tells OK! we are getting a sense the Queen is “enjoying her swansong”. She and those around her may be mindful of her mobility issues and are picking and choosing the events she attends but, most importantly, when she does get out and about, she’s “having a good time”.
Andrew is the author of Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, which was first released in 1992. He shook the monarchy to the core with his book, which was written in collaboration with the Princess of Wales herself. Diana recorded secret tapes detailing her life in the House of Windsor and these were then smuggled out of Kensington Palace to Morton, a royal reporter.
While he may have been a thorn in the Queen’s side then, the author will have redeemed himself with this biography of Her Majesty. The impeccably researched book covers the Queen’s life, from her childhood to the present day, and explains how she has kept the monarchy standing amid numerous scandals and political upheaval.
In this interview, Andrew reveals the Queen’s hopes for the House of Cambridge, why she will still be proud of grandson Harry despite that Oprah Winfrey appearance, and looks back over the highs and lows of our monarch’s reign.
We’ve seen how the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are stepping up to assist the Queen as she scales back her duties. What do you think she is putting in place for the future and to protect her legacy after she’s gone?
She’s spent a lot of time with Prince William and with Catherine and I think she sees them very much as the future. She’s no fool – she knows Prince Charles is going to be an interregnum, like Edward VII, so the family that will carry the burden for the monarchy going forwards is the House of Cambridge.
Has William been included in conversations about the future of the monarchy as well as Charles?
Of course he has – he’s a central player. Obviously, Prince Charles is the next in line, but even he would acknowledge that everyone sees William as the future of the crown and the popular future – despite being booed at Wembley!
Why do you think that happened?
I think it was Liverpool supporters who feel let down by the government and it just so happened Prince William was there.
If there had been another member of the royal family, they would have got the same thing, as a symbol of the Establishment.
You mention in your book how happy the Queen was at Kate and William’s wedding. Do you think she sees them – and particularly Kate – as a safe pair of hands?
The thing about Kate is the Queen was impressed she adored and loved William for himself, not for his title. She spends a lot more time supporting and nurturing the relationship between William and Catherine than she did with Charles and Diana. It’s pretty clear she wasn’t going to make that mistake again. Everything that happened in [Kate and William’s] relationship was quite strategic, quite thought through, after a period of time. In the beginning, nobody in the royal household expected for a second that the university romance with Catherine and William would continue for any time after they graduated, like most college romances which disintegrate under the intense scrutiny of jobs and geography. After he left college, William was doing all kinds of jobs, to get a sense of the Britain he will take over. Catherine was left to go her own way, but she survived.
Will the Queen approve of William and Kate’s relaxed approach?
Yeah. I mean, she’s not of that generation, [not] as touchy-feely. Diana very much was, that was part of her character and nature instinctively, but the Queen is still the Queen after all. Certainly, as she said herself, lessons had to be learned after the death of Diana. I think we’ve seen her gradually breaking free from the past. The monarchy to me now seems more of a relaxed institution than it’s ever been and I think that’s down to the Queen. There is still formality there, but it’s much more relaxed than it was 50 years ago.
The Queen made an appearance at Paddington Station. Do you think we all feel a sense of relief when we see her looking fit and well?
It’s not just a sense of relief, but also an appreciation that she looks so relaxed and convivial. You don’t want to see her out and about and struggling. Obviously, everyone wants her to appear at the Jubilee celebrations. We’ve had a bit of time to reflect on what it’s going to be like without Her Majesty. You saw Prince Charles delivering the Queen’s Speech and William was there, so you do get the glimpse into the future.
Will it be reassuring for her to see the continuity that’s going to come after her?
Continuity is the chief job of the monarch – to make sure they pass on the throne in safe hands to the next one who comes along. Given George VI’s ill health, given the abdication of Edward VIII, you’ve got to go a long way back since the throne passed on in such an orderly and measured manner.
Will she feel like it’s a job well done?
I think so. The fact it’s going to be an orderly transition, the fact that you get a sense of her enjoying her swansong – and it may be that it’s a swansong that lasts for another decade, by the way. It could be a Ken Dodd-type swansong, ‘Oh give me five minutes, give me ten’, you know.
Health-wise, do you think there’s not that much wrong with the Queen apart from back and mobility issues?
I measure the Queen’s health by my mother’s because she’s the same age and they both have similar mobility issues. They both have their marbles and I think the fact the Queen is in reasonable health for her age, and is still undertaking the occasional royal engagement is amazing.
It was recently announced that Camilla would be the Queen Consort. How is the Queen’s relationship with Charles now?
It’s better than it’s been in several decades because he’s resolved his private life and Camilla has proved herself an able and diligent consort. The conflicts with the Queen and Prince Philip were because their son’s marriage was in trouble and because he was in love with another man’s wife. If the Queen had taken a tumble on her horses then, we might have a very different scenario.
Would she feel guilty for having taken so long to accept Charles and Camilla’s relationship?
No, because it didn’t just affect the Queen as a mother, it affected the Queen as a sovereign and the monarchy as an institution. People forget there was a lot of criticism of the monarchy – that debate about Prince Charles being the next king is a debate that was started by Diana and has continued on and off ever since. The Queen, by saying she would like Camilla to be named Queen Consort, shows that the Establishment has accepted that relationship. It was not a flash in the pan, it has endured.
Do you think that’s the secret to her having accepted Camilla, that she could see how much she loved Charles?
The Queen had known Camilla for many years, but she didn’t like the situation that she and Charles had got themselves into. It was nothing personal against her, it was that it was damaging the monarchy.
Now the Queen also has to deal with a tricky situation in relation to Harry and Meghan. What do you think she makes of their decision to relocate to the States?
I think there’s an awful lot of negativity that’s come out of their decision to go to California, but frankly it’s not totally different from what happened with the Queen when she was first married and she went off to Malta for a couple of years with Prince Philip. What does the Queen make of it? I think she’s relaxed about it. It’s not like they are the Cambridges. It’s someone who’s sixth in line to the throne and who will go down the pecking order. It would have been Diana’s wish that Harry would be William’s right-hand man. But what Harry’s doing with his Invictus Games is entirely laudable.
So he’s just finding his place…
One of the things people fail to understand is that the Queen and Prince Philip let their children choose the charities that they wanted to spend time with and it was their decision. So Princess Diana and Save the Children, Prince Charles and the Prince’s Trust, the Duke of Cambridge and mental health and Prince Harry and the Invictus Games – something that is entirely his baby and he’s very proud of it. I think the Queen will be very proud of the fact he’s done that.
How do you think the Oprah Winfrey appearance went down with the Queen?
She was mortified at Diana’s interview with Bashir, she was mortified at her son’s interview with Dimbleby, especially as it overshadowed the first-ever tour of Russia with the Queen and Prince Philip. What Harry had to say was a direct assault on the values of the monarchy so I’m sure she wasn’t exactly thrilled that one of her own was putting the boot into everything she’s done over the last 70 years.
How do you think the royal family will be feeling as Harry and Meghan prepare to fly over for the Jubilee?
I’m sure that everybody will be on their best behaviour. The whole point is it’s not about Harry and Meghan, it’s about the Queen. It will be all smiles. Although when Harry brings out his book in October, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re still smiling then…
Do you think they will feel they have to be guarded with Harry?
I think they will not be articulating what they really feel. The royal family are a very well-bred family and they are used to making small talk, and smiling, carrying on and just getting on with it. Just as Prince Charles had to do with the Camillagate tapes. The royal family are adept at masking their feelings.
Do you think the Queen feels sad she hasn’t got to know her namesake Lilibet yet?
She’s a great-grandmother, of course she wants to see them. Any grandparent does. Her great motto was that she wanted to live in the countryside with dogs and horses and children. She’s always been a family person and not to see her namesake in a difficult year… it’s nice to see new life in a year when you are saying your final goodbyes to your companion since 1947.
How will she be feeling now without Philip by her side?
It was a very loving and robust relationship because it lasted for all those years, but they lived quite separate lives in many respects. Philip had his own life and his own world and was often out in the evening, although obviously they did many thousands of engagements together, especially on the world tours.
What was the secret to their long marriage?
They were always interested in one another and what the other was doing. Philip was one of the few people on the planet who was able to treat the Queen as a woman, as a human being. It’s difficult when everybody is treading on eggshells and on their best behaviour. It’s just [having] someone who can say to you, “Oh don’t talk tosh.”
During her reign, the Queen has presided over a number of scandals. How do you think she has guided the monarchy
Her basic policy has been to kick the can down the road, with Princess Margaret, with the Charles and Diana scenario when she asked them to give it a real go, with the Duke and Duchess of York. I found it very significant that the Queen’s attitude to Harry and Meghan when they wanted to be half in half out of the monarchy was pretty robust. She’d learned kicking the can down the road and letting things linger was not good for the monarchy.
And what about the situation with Andrew?
It was a legal case and the presumption of innocence was on Andrew’s side. Once the court mechanism moved into gear, they had to make a decision – do we have a messy court case with lots of mudslinging or do we pay off?
What do you think the Queen’s greatest strength has been?
Her stoicism. She’s phlegmatic, she’s a woman of strong emotions but she keeps them in check because that’s what she’s been trained to do and that’s second nature to her. I think her finest hour was her speech she made in regards to Covid. It was her reminding the British people that they’d shown stoicism and resilience in the past and could do so again.
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