In the year of the Diamond Jubilee, Do Not Disturb has a royal revelation: the Queen has a great sense of humour. Here are some of her best one-liners.
1 At a garden party a guest was mid-curtsey when her mobile phone trilled. She froze in horror, but the Queen remained serene. ‘You should answer it,’ Her Majesty suggested. ‘It might be someone important.’
2 When a visitor once suggested the Queen must be missing Prince Andrew, who was away in the Navy, she replied: ‘Indeed I do – especially because he is the only one who knows how to work the video.’
3 While the Queen still prides herself on standing throughout a garden party, she delighted in observing to the Archbishop of Canterbury that the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had taken a chair for the second year running: ‘She’s keeled over again!’ she said.
4 Once, at a St James’s Palace line-up, Andrew Pierce, a newspaper hack aware of the convention that journalists shouldn’t interview the monarch, stammered: ‘You can’t talk to me.’ This moved the Queen to give her best Blackadder performance. ‘But I’m the Queen. Who are you?’
5 At a leaving party for Sir Robert (now Lord) Fellowes, she declared: ‘Robert is the only one of my private secretaries I have held in my arms.’ Staff gasped – before remembering that Fellowes is her godson.
6 Her humour was evident at an early age. On the birth of her sister, Margaret Rose in 1931, Elizabeth decided: ‘I shall call her Bud. She’s not a real Rose yet.’ And she continued to cast this quizzical eye over her family. When Princess Anne married the equally horsey Capt Mark Phillips, she remarked: ‘I expect their children will be four-legged.’
7 On a visit to Trinity College, Oxford, early in the Queen’s reign, her Lord-Lieutenant, the Earl of Macclesfield, fainted during lunch, followed swiftly by his wife, who thought he had died. As Miles Jebb recounts in his history of the Lord-Lieutenants, a college servant then tripped over, dropping a tray of drinks. The Queen wryly summed up: ‘We’ve had such a wonderful lunch. Bodies all over the place.’
By Jasper Gerard