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Health, humour, Harry: five points from Brandreth’s Queen biography | Queen Elizabeth II

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She found the Duke of York’s account of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein “intriguing”, worried that the Duke of Sussex might be a little “over in love” with Meghan, and found some solace in the gritty police drama Line of Duty after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

A new biography of Queen Elizabeth II by the author, broadcaster and friend to the royals Gyles Brandreth also says she accepted her health problems before her death “with all the good grace you’d expect”.

As Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is due to be published imminently, here are five key points from published extracts from the book.

On the Sussexes

Delighted to welcome Meghan into the family, “the only concern the Queen let slip in the early days of the Sussexes’ marriage was to wonder to a friend if Harry wasn’t ‘perhaps a little over in love’”, according to Brandreth. She liked Meghan and told her: “You can carry on being an actress if you like – that’s your profession, after all.” She was more concerned about Harry’s wellbeing than “this television nonsense”, as she referred to the Oprah Winfrey interview and the Sussexes’ Netflix deal, he claimed. When Andrew “was harrumphing about Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey on American television in 2020, the Queen chipped in gently: ‘Didn’t Sarah [Andrew’s ex-wife] do something similar?’” he wrote.

On the Duke of York

Andrew told his mother the whole story of his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. “The first time he gave her the full account of the whole sorry saga, she listened carefully. Then the Queen, who never said more than was necessary, responded with just one word: ‘Intriguing,’” Brandreth wrote. She retained her “confidence” in Andrew, yet had no hesitation in stripping him of his role after the disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019. She allowed herself to be photographed riding with Andrew in Windsor Great Park the day after she relieved him of his royal duties to show her personal support, and was in favour of his appearance at her side at Philip’s memorial service.

Grieving Philip

Watching television dramas such as Line of Duty helped to “keep her spirits up”. But she sometimes struggled to keep up with the plot and disliked the constant “mumbling” on it and other programmes. Her master of the household, Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt, told Brandreth: “My principal duty with HM has been to keep her spirits up – so I’ve been watching Line of Duty with her – I’m ‘the Explainer’. It’s very funny.” She told Brandreth she sometimes struggled to understand the plots and dialogue of the police drama. “It keeps me in touch – when I can understand what’s being said. There’s an awful lot of mumbling on television now. It’s not my hearing,” she told him.

Her humour

She really could sing When I’m Cleaning Windows with George Formby’s authentic Lancashire accent, and make an “alarmingly accurate vocal recreation of Concorde coming in to land over Windsor Castle”. It was also “the Queen’s own idea to keep [James] Bond waiting a moment as she signed off a letter before turning around to say ‘Good evening, Mr Bond,’” in the 2012 Olympic Games skit. But she only felt comfortable taking part in such stunts after her mother’s death in 2002. “Simply because she would have felt her mother wouldn’t have approved – that it would have been a bit undignified,” a former senior courtier told the author.

Her health

Her attitude when faced with health issues was: “I’ve got to be sensible.” Her reaction to her health woes was that “she accepted this with all the good grace you’d expect”, Brandreth wrote. He claimed: “I had heard that the Queen had a form of myeloma – bone marrow cancer – which would explain her tiredness and weight loss and those ‘mobility issues’ we were often told about during the last year or so of her life. The most common symptom of myeloma is bone pain, especially in the pelvis and lower back, and multiple myeloma is a disease that often affects the elderly.” The cause of death – as with Prince Philip – was given simply as old age.

Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is published by Michael Joseph on 8 December

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