The entire world knows who Queen Elizabeth is—but very few people know her intimately. What is Her Majesty really like? Royal biographer Robert Hardman seeks to answer that question in his new book Queen of Our Times: The Life of Queen Elizabeth II, out April 5.
“Those who know her well talk about her sense of humor and how she’s a very upbeat and positive person,” Hardman said, per PEOPLE.
This differs from her dour portrayal on Netflix’s hit show The Crown, where Hardman said those that know the Queen don’t see her portrayed accurately on the screen.
“A lot of her friends and close staff felt that [The Crown] showed her being miserable all the time,” said Hardman, who spoke with dozens of friends, palace courtiers, and insiders while researching for the book. “And that’s just not how it is.”
Simply put? The Queen likes being Queen, Hardman said—and that is why she’s remained on the throne and has no intentions of leaving it.
“It’s not just about longevity or clinging on,” he said. “Yes, she’s by far the longest-lived monarch in our history. She remains very much center stage, with an appetite and enthusiasm for the job. She really enjoys what she does.”
She’s tough as nails and, despite recent family heartaches like the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, last April and son Prince Andrew’s ongoing scandals, Her Majesty “does personify the cliché ‘Keep calm and carry on,’” Hardman said. “Even in the dark days, she is an optimist and soldiers on.”
The Queen is also deeply invested in her work, going against the misconception “that she’s largely symbolic and just signs things and goes where she’s told to and smiles,” Hardman said. “When you get behind the scenes of so many of these events, she does keep politicians on their toes.”
She’s a realist, Hardman said, and prefers to remain in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past.
“She’s determined to live in the present because she is animated by the electricity of the present,” a senior adviser told Hardman.
And, Hardman said, above all, Her Majesty is a steady constant in an ever-changing world.
“I don’t think people will really realize until she’s gone the extent to which she is just part of the national landscape,” he said. “She is such a reassuring figure. When you have moments of great uncertainty, there’s that sense that the wheels aren’t going to fall off, that the country will still be there tomorrow—as long as there’s still a flag flying above Buckingham Palace.”
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the weekend editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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