Before passing at age 96, Queen Elizabeth 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 down 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.
7:30 A.M. No need for an alarm! Elizabeth’s maid knocks on her bedroom door bright and early with a pot of Earl Grey tea and pours it into the queen’s favorite bone china teacup. In addition, there are always a couple of plain cookies as a treat.
8 A.M. The maid runs the morning bath. After bathing, the monarch puts on her first outfit of the day, then her hairdresser styles her coif.
8:30 A.M. Elizabeth goes downstairs to the first-floor dining room at Buckingham Palace, which overlooks the garden, where breakfast is served by a footman in tails. There’s a healthy spread of yogurt, fruit and cereal, but Her Majesty usually chooses cornflakes with milk and toast with orange marmalade.
9 A.M. After breakfast, Her Majesty’s kilted piper plays the bagpipes on the terrace. He’s there every weekday, rain or shine, at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle or Holyroodhouse Palace.
9:15 A.M. If Elizabeth has no morning engagements, she moves to her Chippendale desk in the sitting room, where first she deals with her fan mail. She gets some 300 letters each day from the public and chooses a few at random to answer personally. (A lady-in-waiting handles the rest.) Next, she opens 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. 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 inks official papers in black and personal letters in green.
11 A.M. Letters and documents all dealt with, it’s time for private meetings. Guests range from British bishops to foreign ambassadors. The chats are kept brief — usually no more than 20 minutes.
12:30 P.M. Duties done, the Queen takes her pampered pooches for a brisk walk around the grounds.
1 P.M. Lunch is served. Typically the offering is fish, such as grilled Dover sole on a bed of wilted spinach with zucchini. If HRH is feeling in need of a pick-me-up, she might also have an aperitif! Once a month, she and Prince Philip host an informal lunch for about a dozen guests from various backgrounds, from charity workers to incoming governor-generals.
2 P.M. Now it’s out and about. If the royal engagements are outside London, Elizabeth may travel 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 also be a Dundee fruitcake. Her Majesty’s pooches get tidbits from the table if they’re lucky and stand by to lap up any falling crumbs.
6:30 P.M. Every Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth meets with the prime minister for an off-the-record chat about important issues.
7 P.M. The queen studies a report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings. If they’re a little hard-going, she may indulge in a gin and Dubonnet (one part gin to two parts Dubonnet) or a glass of champagne.
7:30 P.M. If there are no engagements on the royal agenda, Elizabeth slips into something more comfortable and enjoys 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 tries to avoid carbs, so no potatoes, rice or pasta. Dessert may be Windsor-grown white peaches. The queen rarely drinks wine with her dinner.
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 will don her finery once again. If not, she may settle down to watch the soaps. The long-running Coronation Street is said to be a favorite, but no word if she’s a fan of The Crown!
10:30 P.M. The Queen takes a final pass at her official dispatch boxes to ensure she’s all up to date.
11 P.M. Lights out at the palace — but not before Elizabeth writes a page in the diary she’s kept since day one of her reign.