It starts with tea: A day in the life of Queen Elizabeth II

She lives in splendid palaces with servants forever at her beck and call, and meets thousands of people every year, but in her private life, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II leads a reclusive, solitary, sometimes ordinary life.

“Some 339 work full time for her and 250 part time or in honorary positions—but fewer than a dozen come in regular personal contact with her,” said Brian Hoey, royal expert and author of Life With The Queen.

During a regular day at Buckingham Palace, her official London residence, Queen Elizabeth is woken at 7.30am by a chambermaid who brings in her tea tray, with milk from the herd at Windsor Castle, west of the capital.

Her bedside wireless is tuned to BBC Radio Four as she likes to listen to the influential Today programme, when government ministers are grilled and the day’s political battle lines are drawn.

“She likes that. She’s not very keen on politicians,” Hoey, who has met the queen several times, told Agence France-Presse.

An avid lover of horses, and a respected breeder of thoroughbreds, Queen Elizabeth enjoys reading the Racing Post newspaper at breakfast with her husband Prince Philip.

At 9.30am, she meets her private secretary, Robin Janvrin, who has already gone through the day’s correspondence.

Together, they go through the day’s programme—receiving a new ambassador, visits to hospitals, inaugurations. Since acceding to the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth has conferred over 387 700 honours and awards.

There have been 139 official portraits of her majesty during her lifetime, so it is not uncommon for the queen to sweep through the palace corridors at 10.30am dressed in full regalia ready for a sitting.

Occasionally, she invites a handful of famous faces, artists or business executives to lunch. Sometimes, other royals are invited to join her at the palace. However, she is more likely to eat a light lunch alone.

“It’s not an informal occasion, with the children popping their heads around the corner saying, ‘Mum, can I join you?’ The queen will send her page with a message to invite them,” Hoey said.

Her daughter Princess Anne curtseys and kisses her, while her sons Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward, bow, then kiss her hand, then kiss her on the cheek.

Every afternoon at 2.30pm, the queen goes for a walk in the palace grounds.

“The rule is that if anybody is in the garden, apart from the gardeners, they must leave. Nobody is allowed to talk to her unless she speaks first. She likes to be left on her own because it’s her thinking time,” Hoey said.

The rest of the afternoon is devoted to the queen’s social duties. She is patron of more than 620 organisations and charities and 1,1-million people have been to her famous summer garden parties.

Every Tuesday at 6.30pm, she gives an audience to the British prime minister to discuss affairs of state.

“Nobody else is present, no notes are taken, no prime minister has ever revealed what goes on,” Hoey said.

Ten prime ministers have served the queen during her reign, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

The current Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is the first to be born during her reign. He is also the only one to have cancelled a weekly rendezvous, citing pressing business elsewhere.

“The queen was quite displeased,” Hoey said. “He doesn’t do it now if he’s in the country.”

At 7.30pm, Philip, who has his own schedule of engagements, returns to Buckingham Palace. The royal couple enjoy a drink together in their apartments.

Still highly active at 84, Philip often goes out again, and Queen Elizabeth, if there is not an engagement to attend, spends her evenings in her private quarters.

She fills in a crossword, often watches television with supper on a tray, and retires to bed at around 11pm.

However, the lights stay on until midnight as the queen pores over confidential government papers which are brought to her every day, no matter where in the world she is, in traditional red boxes.

“She’s very knowledgeable,” Hoey said. “Several prime ministers have been caught out because they hadn’t done their homework properly. She asked questions to which they didn’t know the answer, which she does.” - Sapa-AFP

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