EXCLUSIVE: ‘Yes, well, that would have put a dampener on Christmas, wouldn’t it?’: The Queen’s amusing quip after being told a masked man with a crossbow had got into the grounds of Windsor Castle and threatened to kill her
The Queen’s sanguine – and hilarious – response to a threat on her life is revealed today in a compelling biography of the late monarch.
Written by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, the fascinating new book gives a charming insight into the Queen’s remarkable sense of humour.
Mr Brandreth, a former Conservative MP and trusted confidant of the senior Royals, reveals how throughout her reign, the monarch took the possibility of being in the firing line in her stride.
She even managed to make light of an attempt on her life at Christmas last year when a masked intruder wielding a crossbow approached a police officer in the grounds of Windsor Castle and announced he had come ‘to kill the Queen’.
The late Queen Elizabeth II recording her annual Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room in Windsor Castle last year
The teenager suspected of scaling Windsor Castle armed with a crossbow in a bid to ‘assassinate the Queen in revenge for 1919 Amritsar massacre’
Mr Brandreth tells how when the Queen was told about the incident, she said to one of her team: ‘Yes, well, that would have put a dampner on Christmas, wouldn’t it?’
The amusing anecdote is one of a number of heartwarming tales contained within the book, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait which is being serialised in The Mail + and the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
Mr Brandreth, who occupies a unique position as a friend and biographer of the Royal Family, recounts a number of stories which highlight the sadly passed sovereign’s wit and love of a practical joke. He tells how it was her ‘wry, dry, humorous way of looking at things’ that particularly struck him.
‘The fun of spending time with the Queen was both finding out how much fun she was and discovering unexpected things about her,’ he wrote.
‘She really could sing ‘When I’m cleaning winders’ and the other songs George Formby sang to his banjolele when she was growing up during the war – and with Formby’s authentic Lancashire accent, too. (She was the Duke of Lancaster, after all.)’
It follows revelations in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday about the remarkable way the Queen welcomed Meghan into the Royal Family – despite her concerns that Prince Harry was ‘perhaps a little over-in-love’ with his new partner.
In today’s insightful extract, Mr Brandreth reveals:
- The Queen’s ‘spot-on impressions’ including an ‘alarmingly accurate’ vocal recreation of Concorde coming in to land over Windsor Castle.
- Following the 1973 wedding of horse-loving Princess Anne to Mark Phillips, a key member of the British three-day-eventing team, the Queen remarked: ‘I shouldn’t wonder if their children are four-legged’
- How she joked with an American couple who failed to recognise her while out walking near Balmoral, telling them she ‘lived in London’ but had a ‘holiday home the other side of the hills’.
- The Queen teased her former prime minister Edward Heath, telling him: ‘You’re expendable now’ at a 1992 gathering of foreign heads of government.
- How the Queen found it amusing when in 2018, Donald Trump strode ahead of her when he visited Windsor and inspected the Guard of Honour. And that night, when she saw herself on television, ‘bobbing about behind him’, she laughed out loud.
- How he (Mr Brandreth) once made her laugh by telling her a story she claimed she had never heard before – that Princess Margaret’s son David Linley’s first word was ‘chandelier’.
- The Duke of Edinburgh told how his wife was ‘quite normal’ despite being an object of adulation for more than 70 years. ‘It didn’t affect her at all,’ he told Mr Brandreth ‘She never for a moment thought the cheering was for her personally. It’s for the position she holds – it’s for the role she fulfils, it’s because she’s Queen. That’s all. She knows that. Her head hasn’t been turned by being Queen – not at all. She’s quite normal.’
Heightened Security at Windsor Castle after the Intruder armed with a crossbow got into the Grounds on Christmas Day
Mr Brandreth’s book tells the story of Elizabeth’s life and reign from a unique perspective, having been one of the few authors to have met and talked with her, keeping meticulous – and often hilarious – records of their conversations.
He had been close to Prince Philip since the 1970s, after meeting at a charity event where they hit it off.
Mr Brandreth has continued to work with the Royals, launching a poetry podcast with the Queen Consort earlier this year. He also knows the new King and Camilla well.
In Sunday’s extract, Mr Brandreth told how the Queen was ‘devoted’ to her grandson Harry and thought he was ‘huge fun’ and liked Meghan and did ‘everything to make her feel welcome.
He revealed that The Queen also told Meghan she could continue her career, saying: ‘You can carry on being an actress if you like – that’s your profession, after all’ but was ‘delighted’ when Meghan said she would quit acting to dedicate herself to Royal service.
The Queen liked Meghan’s mother Doria, and was sorry the Markle family was ‘fractured’. He also told that while other members of the Royal Family found the Sussexes’ decision to name their daughter Lilibet – the Queen’s childhood nickname – ‘bewildering’ and ‘rather presumptuous’, the Queen remarked that it was ‘very pretty and seems just right’.
Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is published by Michael Joseph on December 8.
Click here to read the extract of Gyles Brandreth’s intimate portrait of the Queen on The Mail+