Queen For A Day: 24 Hours In The Life Of The Late Monarch

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Sep. 10 2022, Published 12:00 a.m. ET

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Even at 96, Queen Elizabeth II carried out more public engagements than many of the other royals combined, showing up at seemingly nonstop events in her trademark hats and sensible $1,300 Anello & Davide patent leather shoes.

But what went on behind the scenes in the queen’s life? How did one of the world’s most popular rulers spend her private time in and out of the palace, whether she’s preparing to greet her adoring subjects or simply putting up her feet?

Here, a typical day in the life of the industrious royal:

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7:30 A.M. No need for an alarm! Elizabeth’s maid would knock on her bedroom door bright and early with a pot of Earl Grey tea and pour it into the queen’s favorite bone china teacup. In addition, there were always a couple of plain cookies as a treat.

8 A.M. The maid would run the morning bath. After bathing, the monarch would put on her first outfit of the day, then her hairdresser would style her coif.


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8:30 A.M. Elizabeth went downstairs to the first-floor dining room at Buckingham Palace, which overlooks the garden, where breakfast was served by a footman in tails. There’s a healthy spread of yogurt, fruit and cereal, but Her Majesty usually chose cornflakes with milk and toast with orange marmalade.

Prince Philip used to join her from his separate bedroom, and they spend a few minutes scanning the morning newspapers (she liked the horse-racing pages).

9 A.M. After breakfast, Her Majesty’s kilted piper played the bagpipes on the terrace. He would be there every weekday, rain or shine, at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle or Holyroodhouse Palace.

9:15 A.M. If Elizabeth had no morning engagements, she moved to her Chippendale desk in the sitting room, where first she would deal with her fan mail. She got some 300 letters each day from the public and chose a few at random to answer personally. (A lady-in-waiting handles the rest.)

Next, she opened the famous “Red Boxes” that are delivered daily (except on Christmas) by her private secretaries. They contain important documents of state that must be read and signed, such as legislation passed by Parliament that must get the queen’s stamp of approval (known as Royal Assent) before becoming law.

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It’s mostly a formality, though: No monarch has refused to give her assent since 1708, when Queen Anne refused a bill that would have re-created the Scottish militia after England and Scotland were formally unified. Elizabeth inked official papers in black and personal letters in green.

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11 A.M. Letters and documents all dealt with, it would time for private meetings. Guests range from British bishops to foreign ambassadors. The chats were kept brief — usually no more than 20 minutes.

12:30 P.M. Duties done, the queen would take her pampered pooches for a brisk walk around the grounds.

1 P.M. Lunch would served. Typically the offering is fish, such as grilled Dover sole on a bed of wilted spinach with zucchini. If HRH was feeling in need of a pick-me-up, she may have also had an aperitif! Once a month, she and Philip hosted an informal lunch for about a dozen guests from various backgrounds, from charity workers to incoming governor-generals.

Queen Elizabeth II

2 P.M. If the royal engagements are outside London, Elizabeth may have traveled on the royal helicopter or plane.

5 P.M. Time for high tea in the queen’s palace suite: more Earl Grey tea, salmon, cucumber, ham as well as egg mayonnaise sandwiches (crusts removed, of course), along with scones and her favorite “jam pennies” — sandwiches cut into circles the size of an old English penny (a little bigger than an American silver dollar). There may have also had been a Dundee fruitcake. Her Majesty’s pooches got tidbits from the table if they were lucky and stand by to lap up any falling crumbs.

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6:30 P.M. Every Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth met with the prime minister (currently Liz Truss) for an off-the-record chat about important issues.

7 P.M. The queen studied a report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings. If they were a little hard-going, she may have indulged in a gin and Dubonnet (one part gin to two parts Dubonnet) or a glass of champagne.

7:30 P.M. If there were no engagements on the royal agenda, Elizabeth would slip into something more comfortable and enjoy a private meal, usually sourced from the royal stocks — game or fish from the Sandringham House estate in Norfolk, or venison or salmon from Balmoral in Scotland. The queen tried to avoid carbs, so no potatoes, rice or pasta. Dessert may have been Windsor-grown white peaches. The queen rarely drank wine with her dinner.

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8:30 P.M. Work may not be over yet. If there’s a reception for community groups or visiting dignitaries at Buckingham Palace, HRH would don her finery once again. If not, she may have settled down to watch the soaps. The long- running Coronation Street is said to have been a favorite, but no word if she was a fan of The Crown!

10:30 P.M. The queen took a final pass at her official dispatch boxes to ensure she was all up to date.

11 P.M. Lights out at the palace — but not before Elizabeth would write up a page in the diary she had kept since day one of her reign.


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