1 June 2012

The Perfect Ten Who Have Shaped Elizabeth -
From her devoted nanny and favourite prime minister to her loving husband, these people have helped define the Queen's character

Sir Winston Churchill
The Queen's first prime minister (of 12) was sunk in gloom at the death of George VI and did not relish working with a girl he hardly knew.  But the old man was soon captivated by the new Queen's youth, beauty and precocious authority - and impressed by how much she know.
To her, he was Britain's wartime saviour and hero.  He was fun, the embodiment of everything that made Great Britain great; she was his old-age romance.

King George VI
Deeply shy and aghast to find himself King, George VI was torn between wanting to shelter his eldest daughter from the realities of what lay ahead and preparing her for the succession.  he tried to protect 'us four', the cosy family unit thrust into the public arena by an accident of history.  She adored him and he was her example, his diligence and commitment to duty providing her with a lifelong template of monarchy.  He introduced her, aged 16, to the recreational passion of her life by taking her to watch his racehorses in training.  His legacy provided one of the deepest diversionary satisfactions of her reign: an arena where she could be herself and excel as a professional among equals.

Martin Charteris
Lord Charteris of Amisfield was a one-off, a shrewd, high-spirited and innovative courtier who served the Queen as her private secretary for three decades, injecting humour into her speeches and a lightness of touch into the daily round.
He was with Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Kenya when the King died unexpectedly on 6 February 1952.  Her calm and composure were astonishing to him.  It fell to her to ask what name she wanted to use as Queen - 'My own  name, of course, Elizabeth' - and to brief her on details of the Accession on the long journey home.  He wanted people to see her as she really was, not strait-jacketed by formality.

Henry Carnarvon
The 7th Earl of Carnarvon was the Queen's racing manager, one of her oldest and most valued friends.  She called him by his schoolboy nickname 'Porchey' (after his courtesy title, Lord Porchester).  He took her to balls.  He was with the princesses when they joined the wild throng of V-E Day revellers outside Buckingham Palace.  He revived the Highclere Stud at the family seat near Newbury, where the Queen was a frequent guest.  The Queen's racing manager for over 32 years, she enjoyed a very special friendship with Henry Carnarvon, ranging over many interests.

John Warren
The first person without title or military rank to be the Queen's racing adviser and bloodstock manager.  Straight-talking son of a greengrocer and entirely self-made, he is now part of the racing aristocracy.  He is the Queen's eye and ears when she cannot be in the field and talks to her most days, but is the first to admit that he defers to her formidably knowledge of breeding and bloodlines.Warren is long-married to Lord Porchester's daughter, Carolyn.  They run the Highclere Stud with Carolyn's brother, Harry Herbert. 

When the Queen stays with the couple at their manor house on the Highclere estate, it means she can also catch up with the old friend, Jeanie, the American-born Dowager Countess of Carnarvon.

Marion (Crawfie) Crawford
Nursery maid and imaginative governess to the two princesses for 16 years, Crawfie was ultimately ostracised for her treachery in writing the first insider's account of royal service.  Before the betrayal, she had been a privotal and much-loved member of the household.  

Margaret 'Bobo' MacDonald

A sensible, forthright Scottish countrywoman who served her 'little lady' for 67 years, moving from nursery maid to dresser to lifelong confidante.  Throughout the princess's girlhood she shared a bedroom with her and was her closest link with the real world. To some, she seemed suffocatingly protective of her mistress, especially after the princess's marriage.  After her retirement, she retained her own suite at Buckingham Palace and when her health failed, the Queen hired nurses to look after her until she died, aged 89, in 1993.

Angela Kelly
A jolly and very conspicuous member of the royal entourage, known to insiders as the Queen's 'gatekeeper'. The successor to Bobo MacDonald is officially Personal Assistant Adviser and Curator (Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe), a much grander remit.  Both are grandmothers, both rigorous professionals, when they're alone, staff hear laughter echoing the corridor.  Kelly has brought inventiveness and interest to the royal wardrobe.  She travels with the Queen everywhere.

Patrick Plunket
A childhood friend who became one of the Queen's closest advisers.  Easy-going, hunorous, wise and only three years older than the Quee, the 7th Baron Plunket was sometimes called the brother she never had.  He was George VI's equerry and then the Queen's Master of the Household.  His sense of the absurd appealed to her, he loved parties and gave zest to any formal occasion.  

Duke of Edinburgh
The unsung hero of the reign.   Despite Philip Mountbatten's dashing image and fine war record, their union was controversial at the time and he put up with many slights during their early married life.  Established courtiers patronised him and he was deeply hurt not to be allowed to give his children his family name.  He had to abandon a flourishing naval career and become, essentially, an accessory.

(From an article in today's The Daily Telegraph by Elizabeth Grice)

No comments:

Post a Comment