From her unvarnished delight at winning money on the horses to affectionately telling off a grandchild who stood on her toes, a new film delivers one of the most intimate portraits of the Queen to date. Featuring candid behind- the-scenes footage, the movie-length documentary to mark the Platinum Jubilee reveals Her Majesty’s sense of mischief, both as she carries out official duties as well as in more private moments.
In one scene the Queen is shown receiving cash after winning at the races. ‘What do I get?’ she asks an aide. He tells her she has won £16 and duly hands over the crisp notes. ‘£16? Hah!’ she replies with glee before beaming to the camera, clearly thrilled with her winnings – and breaking the often-reported convention that she never carries cash. The endearing episode is just one of the intimate scenes that will feature in Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts, when it is released on the jubilee weekend in June.
The film charts her 70-year reign with rarely seen clips gathered from the Queen’s private collection plus outtakes recovered from broadcasting archives. The result is a film which truly captures the Queen’s sense of humour in unguarded moments. In one scene, the Monarch gently chastises a two-year-old Princess Eugenie when she gets a little too close. ‘Ouch!’ she yells, ‘that’s my foot you’re standing on!’
Her yelp comes as Her Majesty tries to help Princess Beatrice, then four, mount a pony being led by ten-year-old Prince William in the grounds of Balmoral. In the film, the Queen also reveals that she keeps a handwritten diary, before adding: ‘But it’s not really a diary like Queen Victoria’s. It’s quite small.’
Of course, horses feature prominently. Her Majesty is seen engaging in good-humoured banter at the 1991 Epsom Derby, saying to her mother: ‘Do you know that I haven’t watched from a pair of binoculars for ages. Look at [me] – pouring with tears. I always watch on television.’ When the Queen Mother replies ‘It’s the emotion, perhaps’, the Queen comes back with: ‘No, Mummy! It’s if you look into the wind like that.’
At one point the Queen becomes so animated that she appears to be mimicking the tic-tac signs used by bookmakers to signify the odds of certain horses. When talking about the literal burden that she must endure as Monarch, the Queen lifts her crown with a mischievous chuckle and says: ‘It weighs a ton… and you can’t look down because if you did your neck would break!’
Her Majesty seldom shows any self-doubt in public, but in film shot before a recording of her Christmas speech in 1991, she is seen asking the BBC’s David Attenborough, who was producing that year’s broadcast: ‘Clothes-wise, does it look all right?’ After being assured that her pink outfit is fine, she breaks into an infectious laugh, saying: ‘That’s jolly lucky because it would be awful if you said no. I don’t know if I’ve got something else.’
These moments of levity are combined with an overwhelming sense of the Queen’s commitment to her duty. During the Trooping the Colour parade in 1981 she is seen on horseback showing calm resilience despite being shot at six times by a 17-year-old firing a starting pistol, and bringing her startled horse under control in just a few seconds.
And speaking about the way in which she came to the throne at the age of just 25, the Queen says: ‘In a way I didn’t have an apprenticeship. My father died much too young, and so it was all a very sudden kind of taking on and making the best job you can.
‘It’s a question of maturing into something one’s got used to doing and accepting the fact that here you are and it’s your fate.’ But the making of the film itself was not without its own sense of tragedy and fate. Its award-winning director Roger Michell, who is best-known for his 1999 blockbuster Notting Hill, died suddenly in September at the age of 65 – on the day he had put on its finishing touches.
Michell, who was separated from second wife Anna Maxwell Martin, star of TV’s Line Of Duty and Motherland, left behind daughters Maggie, 12, and Nancy, ten. He also has two older children from his first marriage to actress Kate Buffery. Kevin Loader, the producer of Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We had been doing the final day of the final sound mix and then I got a call – he had had a heart attack.
‘This was his last film that he completed, and I’m glad because we had a good time making it. ‘Our archive team did a huge trawl through hundreds of hours of footage and it has been a thrill to look at some of it. ‘It is amazing to remember how glamorous the Queen was in her youth. Even in footage where she is meeting Marilyn Monroe or Diana Dors, your eye is naturally drawn to the Queen, not the celebrity. ‘There is a real twinkle about Her Majesty – a real joie de vivre. But there’s also a modesty about her. It’s extraordinary.’