Royal biographer IAN LLOYD
‘Grief is the price we pay for love,’ was the message the Queen sent to New York in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities.
They are words worth remembering at the passing of the man she loved since the age of 13 – and which follows one of the most traumatic periods of her life.
In the past 12 months, the Queen has watched the reputation of her favourite son, Prince Andrew, reduced to tatters thanks to his association with the late paedophile millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
She has endured the departure of grandson Harry and his American wife Meghan not just from Royal duties, but from Britain amid a damaging storm of claim and counter-claim.
As mother of a nation, the Queen has seen the country she serves suffer the greatest collective trauma we have undergone since the Second World War.
Now, her ‘rock’, her husband of 73 years and the longest-serving consort in the history of the British monarch, has finally left her side.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s importance to her, and to the monarchy, cannot be overstated.
Prince Philip was truly her ‘liege man and limb,’ just as he had sworn to be at the coronation in 1953 – her chief adviser and mainstay, a fount of old-fashioned common sense whose humour broke the ice on many a fraught occasion.
However, friends and others close to Her Majesty point to a tenacity and inner strength they are certain will carry her through the coming weeks and months of loneliness.
In part, they say, the Queen will survive quite simply because that is what she has always done.
She was trained not to show emotion from an early age and, as a child, memorably told her grandmother Queen Mary that ‘handkerchiefs are for waving rather than crying into’.
As mother of a nation, the Queen has seen the country she serves suffer the greatest collective trauma we have undergone since the Second World War
The Duke of Edinburgh’s importance to her, and to the monarchy, cannot be overstated
It is a view that has served her well.
I once asked her cousin, the late Margaret Rhodes, one of the Queen’s closest confidantes, how she stayed calm when major engagement such as the State Opening of Parliament was imminent.
‘She has the ability to compartmentalise her life,’ she replied.
‘She can be in the middle of some great personal crisis, but will go for a ride with her groom and discuss how his son could find university accommodation.
‘She will give that just as much thought.’
History has already shown us how the Queen responds to grief .
Although devastated at the loss of her sister, Princess Margaret, in 2002, she continued to work. Between the announcement of Margaret’s death and the funeral, one week later, she made two public appearances.
There was only one caveat – an instruction that, in attending, she did not want people consoling her.
Former courtier Sir Edward Ford reflected on her extraordinary work ethic:
In the past 12 months, the Queen has watched the reputation of her favourite son, Prince Andrew , reduced to tatters thanks to his association with the late paedophile millionaire Jeffrey Epstein
She has endured the departure of grandson Harry and his American wife Meghan not just from Royal duties, but from Britain amid a damaging storm of claim and counter-claim
Some have suggested it is time for a full-blown Regency, with Charles – although not King – declared the formal head of state
‘I always got the impression she thoroughly enjoyed what she did,’ he told me. ‘Certainly she was a terrific help to us [the household] since she quickly dealt with all her paperwork and was very decisive in answering things.
‘Even when she gave birth to her children, within the house she would be sitting up in bed reading through her red boxes.’
Death or no death, those red boxes, which contain official government papers requiring the sovereign’s attention, will keep on arriving.
Philip’s cousin, Countess Mountbatten, reflected in 2015 that, while the Duke had been an enormous help, ‘Given her strong sense of duty I’m sure the Queen could have reigned alone.’
Religious faith will be another strength in the coming months.
Princess Elizabeth was taught by her mother to say her prayers at a young age and even today she will not go to sleep without kneeling in prayer at the side of her bed.
No matter where she was in the world she attended some form of Sunday worship, whether in a local Anglican church or a service conducted on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.’
‘The Queen wasn’t just crowned, but anointed as sovereign. That, if anything, meant more to her,’ said Mrs Rhodes.
The anointment – the most sacred moment of the coronation ceremony – was the only part the Queen would not allow to be filmed. The solemn tradition recalls the biblical reference of Zadok the Priest anointing Solomon, and links the monarch with the divine.
At Windsor, Her Majesty has been using the private chapel on the Castle’s east wing for her regular worship.
The chapel holds particularly poignant memories of the Duke: he helped design the re-construction following the devastating fire of 1992, which included the three stained glass windows which depict the fire and the battle to save the ancient building.
She also has the unswerving support both of her family and the extended Royal household.
Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, with his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, have all been seen arriving at Windsor over the last two days.
Loyal members of staff, including her favourite page, Paul Whybrew, and dresser Angela Kelly, are also close friends and have already helped the Queen through a year of lockdown and turbulence.
Last year, when Prince Philip only stayed a short time at Balmoral Castle, three generations of the family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, joined her for the summer holidays.
She is devoted to her growing brood of great-grandchildren and two new Royal babies – Zara and Mike Tindall’s new-born son Lucas, and Princess Eugenie’s first child, August, with husband Jack Brooksbank – have been added in the last two months.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are also expecting another child, a daughter, in the summer.
More immediately, she has two new Corgi puppies – Fergus and Muick. Like their much-loved predecessors, she will feed and walk them personally.
And the Queen has a robust private routine to carry her through – often involving her love of horses.
The day after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, Princess Anne joined the Queen for a ride through the Home Park at Windsor.
Rarely will she miss the opportunity to get out on horseback, often every day. Warmer weather will hopefully see her out with her groom, Terry Pendry. Her racing manager, Sir John Warren, will also likely be in close contact.
Royal Ascot will resume in June and the Queen is usually expected to attend all five days. The Royal Windsor Horse Show, cancelled last year, in which Her Majesty’s fell ponies compete, will take place at the beginning of July.
As to her longer-term future, she has remained steadfastly against abdication, a position supported by her religious faith and her firm belief in her Coronation oath.
Abdication is particularly unpalatable because of its association with her uncle, Edward VIII, whose decision to renounce the throne and marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson threw the monarchy into crisis.
Other European heads of state who have stepped down early have earned the Queen’s scorn.
Hearing Queen Juliana of the Netherlands had abdicated in 1980, as her mother Queen Wilhelmina had done before her, the monarch sniffed: ‘Well, that’s the Dutch for you.’
This stance has softened slightly with her advancing age.
Speaking shortly before her death in 2016, Mrs Rhodes said the Queen had added an important caveat to her intentions: she would never abdicate ‘unless I have Alzheimer’s or a stroke’.
This change of tack was said to have been informed by the sight of the desperately frail Pope John Paul II carrying out the Easter blessing outside the Vatican when seemingly was barely cognisant.
There is another milestone in 10 days’ time when, on April 21, The Queen turns 95. The birthday is likely to be marked with more reflection than celebration.
Poignant, too, will be June 10, the date on which the Duke of Edinburgh would have turned 100.
It was suggested many years ago that the Queen would use her 95th to announce an abdication. Few believe this credible, yet significant change is under way, and has been for some time with the Queen handing over increasing responsibilities to her oldest son and other senior royals.
Some have suggested it is time for a full-blown Regency, with Charles – although not King – declared the formal head of state.
This is, too, is unlikely in the immediate term. His mother, after all, is determined to carry on her duties for as long as she is able.
All the same, it is Charles who carries out overseas tours. He also attends all key royal events. A hand-over is questionably under way – and will continue.
One of the few consolations of the coronavirus crisis is that brought the Queen and the Duke together under the same roof, with few official interruptions. Until the Covid crisis, Prince Philip had spent much of his time living separately at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate.
He lived out his final days quietly with the Queen by his side which, after a lifetime of service for them both, will have been precious.
Together, they created one of the most memorable reigns in British history. In 2022, the Queen will have been on the throne for an astonishing seven full decades.
While she must now face that anniversary alone, it is to be hoped that the memories of her late husband and his unstinting support may yet sustain her for years to come.