2013年3月11日

Cosy and comfy, one's sitting room: Cluttered with treasures and just a little bit messy, the Queen's private retreat

It has the everyday cosiness of a granny’s front room.
There are china ornaments on the mantelpiece, a cluster of cherished family photos and a flowery, frilly chair pulled up by the fireplace.

This particular granny, it seems, likes keeping up with current affairs, as a collection of newspapers and journals is arranged neatly on a table.

There are also pots of fresh flowers, lacy doilies, treasured mementoes and a couple of dog baskets on the floor.
The Queen at her audience with Prime Minister David Cameron in her Private sitting room in Balmoral
Cosy: The Queen at her audience with Prime Minister David Cameron in her private sitting room in Balmoral
In this shot we see a picture of the Queen Mother, flowers and a collection of rocks
In this shot we see a picture of the Queen Mother, flowers and a collection of rocks
Informed: The Queen stays up-to-date with current affairs
Informed: The Queen stays up-to-date with current affairs
Clutter: Letters and documents pile up on a set of drawers. Notice the small statuette of her beloved corgis
Clutter: Letters and documents pile up on a set of drawers. Notice the small statuette of her beloved corgis
This is the Queen’s private sitting room at Balmoral. But despite the relaxed trappings, Her Majesty’s Scottish residence is no place to put your feet up. Just ask David Cameron.

‘Well, it’s quite informal in that you turn up and the family’s doing whatever the family’s doing... and there is a little bit of choice about whether you want to go and ride a horse or try and catch a fish or go for a walk,’ he told the makers of Our Queen, a landmark documentary giving an intimate portrait of the Queen’s daily life.
‘You know, even though the Royal Family are on holiday, there isn’t much what you’d call downtime, there’s not much chillaxing at Balmoral, they’re very active.’
The Prime Minister was filmed for the documentary last year after facing accusations that he spent too much time ‘chillaxing’ - chilling out and relaxing – hence his pointed use of the term.
Fireside chat: In this scene we can see an electric heater in front of the fireplace, a small teddy bear on the table and a photo of Andrew with Beatrice and Eugenie
Fireside chat: In this scene we can see an electric heater in front of the fireplace, a small teddy bear on the table and a photo of Andrew with Beatrice and Eugenie
Insight: The photos give a fascinating glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Queen's Scottish home
Insight: The photos give a fascinating glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Queen's Scottish home

Premiers traditionally have private audiences with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and at Balmoral, where the Royal Family holiday during August and September.

In the documentary, to be broadcast  on ITV, the cameras are granted access to two of the strictly confidential meetings. In the first ever TV interview by a serving private secretary, Edward Young,
Deputy Private Secretary to the Queen, explained the routine.
Power: The Queen at her weekly audience with the Prime Minister David Cameron at Buckingham Palace
Smile: The Queen at her weekly audience with the Prime Minister David Cameron at Buckingham Palace
The programme also explores the modern Monarchy, delivering an insight into the way the world's most famous woman leads the world's best-known royal house
The programme also explores the modern monarchy, delivering an insight into the way the world's most famous woman leads the world's best-known royal house
‘The Prime Minister will appear, whoever it is and you always get the sense that he’s walking just a little bit taller – and in a way it’s understandable because very few of us have the opportunity to be able to talk to someone in total confidence,’ he said.

‘But even more than that, perhaps, to have someone who can say, “Well, yes, I remember Winston having a problem a bit like that” and who’s able to encourage and occasionally able to raise an eyebrow and say, “Are you sure”?’

Director Michael Waldman spent a year working on the documentary. Along with the Mail’s Robert Hardman, he was given unique access to the royal household in the Diamond Jubilee year of 2012.
Our Queen, is a TV portrait of Queen Elizabeth II during one of the most momentous years of her reign
Our Queen is a TV portrait of Queen Elizabeth II during one of the most momentous years of her reign
Yesterday in an article for the Radio Times, Mr Waldman recalled how among the collection of treasures in the Queen’s private sitting room at Balmoral was a cushion embroidered with the words: ‘It’s good to be Queen.’

He described the monarch as ‘house-proud’, telling how at Buckingham Palace she used her left foot to straighten the simple two-bar electric fire while waiting for the Prime Minister to arrive for his weekly audience.

There’s a similar rather practical electric fire in front of the grand marble fireplace at Balmoral.
Our Queen will be broadcast on ITV on Sunday at 8pm.
Royal hounds: Staff dry the the Queen's corgis after a walk at Balmoral
Royal hounds: Staff dry the the Queen's corgis after a walk at Balmoral

The documentary also features members of the Queen's staff, such as Royal Chef Mark Flanagan, who is shown preparing the sovereign's lunch at Windsor Castle
The documentary also features members of the Queen's staff, such as Royal Chef Mark Flanagan, who is shown preparing the sovereign's lunch at Windsor Castle

A Balmoral Footman on his way to deliver a 'red box' of official papers to the Queen
A Balmoral Footman on his way to deliver a 'red box' of official papers to the Queen

Social media: Attendees at the Olympian and Para-Olympian Reception tweet from the 'tweet suite' in Buckingham Palace
Social media: Attendees at the Olympian and Para-Olympian Reception tweet from the 'tweet suite' in Buckingham Palace
Sweet: Chefs prepare dessert for the monarch's lunch at Windsor Castle
Sweet: Chefs prepare dessert for the monarch's lunch at Windsor Castle
 

Vote of confidence in Charles to lead Commonwealth

By Robert Hardman
The Queen and the Commonwealth leadership last night delivered an unprecedented vote of confidence in the Prince of Wales as the next Head of the Commonwealth.
The future of this honorary but hugely influential position – incorporating 54 nations and almost a third of the world’s population – has never before been openly discussed.
Nor is it laid down in the organisation’s statutes.
But at last night’s celebrations for Commonwealth Day, as the Queen made her first public appearance since her hospital stay for gastro-enteritis last week, the message was unambiguous: the Commonwealth sees its future in partnership with the Monarchy.
Matters of state: The Queen walks through Buckingham Palace reading papers
Matters of state: The Queen walks through Buckingham Palace reading papers
The lingering effects of last week’s illness had forced the Queen to miss yesterday afternoon’s multi-faith Commonwealth Day ‘observance’ at Westminster Abbey.
But she had been determined to make it to last night’s annual reception at the Commonwealth’s London headquarters where she signed a groundbreaking new charter enshrining the organisation’s beliefs.
Her short speech afterwards carried a more personal message, however.

Traditionally, there are no speeches at this event. Given the importance attached to the charter and to the Queen’s more personal message, an exception was made last night.

The future of the Crown/Commonwealth connection is a subject which has been studiously avoided in recent years, precisely because there is nothing in the rules which says that the British Monarch is automatically Head of the Commonwealth.
Seat of power: The Queen with (left to right) PM David Cameron and ex-prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
Seat of power: The Queen with (left to right) PM David Cameron and ex-prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
The Queen poses for photographs with the Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) and Chancellor George Osborne (right)
The Queen poses for photographs with the Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) and Chancellor George Osborne (right)
A candid moment as the Queen poses for photographs with Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
A candid moment as the Queen poses for photographs with Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
The title was bestowed on George VI when the Commonwealth of former British dominions and colonies was created in 1949.

When he died in 1952, there were only eight Member states. After the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, formally congratulated the new Queen on being the new Head of the Commonwealth, her position was simply acknowledged unanimously.

But it was never incorporated into law or her Coronation Oath.

Since then, as the former British Empire has unravelled, the organisation has expanded to include 54 member states spanning every continent, all the world’s main religions and almost every sort of political creed.
Majesty: The Queen and HRH The Duke Of Edinburgh leave by carriage for the State Opening of Parliament
Majesty: The Queen and HRH The Duke Of Edinburgh leave by carriage for the State Opening of Parliament
Not all of them are wedded to the idea of a hereditary royal Head. Rather than drag the Prince of Wales into a debate entirely beyond his control, it has simply been Commonwealth policy not to discuss the issue.
‘There has been more and more private discussion about the issue in recent years,’ said a senior Commonwealth source last night.
‘But the more people look at the alternatives, the more you now get back to the conclusion that the Commonwealth is better off with the British Monarch.
The general consensus is that we’d rather have someone we know and subject to the constraints which come with being Monarch than a politician who might veer off in unpredictable directions.
There may a few dissenting voices but the majority want Charles.’
Audience: The Queen meets farmers at a Country Fair in Glanusk Park, Powys, Wales
Audience: The Queen meets farmers at a Country Fair in Glanusk Park, Powys, Wales
Broadcast: The Queen looks up while recording her Christmas Radio message to the Commonwealth
Broadcast: The Queen looks up while recording her Christmas Radio message to the Commonwealth
The Queen inspects a decorated Indonesian sword on display from the Royal Collection during the Indonesian State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
The Queen inspects a decorated Indonesian sword on display from the Royal Collection during the Indonesian State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
The Prince of Wales was not present at last night’s event since he is heading for a tour of the Middle East.
But in recent years he has had a closer involvement in Commonwealth affairs, attending the 2007 Commonwealth summit in Uganda and opening the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The Queen was preceded by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, who paid tribute to her lifelong service to the Commonwealth.

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‘The ties forged between the people and communities of the Commonwealth have been reinforced by the care which you have taken to visit and meet so many of them over more than sixty years,’ he told her.

‘The support given to you in this endeavour by the Prince of Wales and other members of the Royal Family deepens the Commonwealth’s links to the Crown.’

‘Such heartfelt enthusiasm brings a foundation of friendship and continuity to the Commonwealth that sets it apart from any other gathering of nations.’
In her equally weighted reply, the Queen told Mr Sharma: ‘I am grateful to you, Mr Secretary General, for kind and generous sentiments and for your thoughtful words about the link between the Crown and the Commonwealth and its enduring value.’
Last night, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said simply that the Queen was ‘very grateful’ for Mr Sharma’s remarks.

‘Her reply says it all,’ the spokesman said.

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