"A footman appeared with a red box — the last one that had gone up to the Queen before her death. Even on her deathbed, there had been work to do. And she had done it," author Robert Hardman revealed in his new book, The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy.
Elizabeth II had been staying at Balmoral Castle in Northern Scotland for weeks before she passed away, which was an annual late summer tradition. Although her daughter, Princess Anne, later shared how Her late Majesty "worried" that dying at her beloved home would "complicate matters," some have speculated that the monarch "knew" she would likely die at the Highlands estate.
The Queen met with new Prime Minister Liz Truss on September 6, 2022, just two days before she breathed her last, but Hardman's book shows that she also kept working on her literal deathbed.
On the evening of the 6th, "She was quite buzzy over pre-dinner drinks and talking about various prime ministers she had known. But then she said she was going upstairs and would have dinner alone. It was the last time most of her immediate household would see her. Even in familiar surroundings, the exertions of this, her most fundamental constitutional duty, had taken a greater toll than anyone had imagined," Hardman wrote.
"The following morning, September 7, the Queen's health deteriorated. "Fortunately, the Princess Royal, with a diary of engagements in Scotland, was in residence. 'It was purely serendipity that I was there,' Princess Anne recalls. 'I'd been two days up on the West Coast, and I was coming back, stayed the night, and was going south,'" the author added.
Both Anne and the then-Prince Charles would visit the ailing monarch throughout that day, as the sovereign remained in bed, which nearly everyone thought "was not a good sign." As the morning of September 8 dawned, Her late Majesty remained bedridden and had started to slip in and out of consciousness, which had the entire castle on high alert.
Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived at the estate late that morning and spent an hour with Elizabeth II in her bedroom before the heir to the throne, not expecting the Queen to die, left to attend local engagements. He would later return shortly after 3:30 PM, where he was greeted by his sister with a deep curtsy — he was now His Majesty The King.
The late Queen's Private Secretary Sir Edward Young, then recorded a memo that is now preserved in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.
It read: "Dougie [Glass] (Elizabeth II's physician) in at 3.25. Very peaceful. In her sleep. Slipped away. Old age. Death has to be registered in Scotland. Agree 3.10pm. She wouldn't have been aware of anything. No pain."
People reported on Hardman's book.