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The Queen is still "diffident and shy" in private – but has a playful side, a royal author says.
Biographer Matthew Dennison has unveiled a side of Her Majesty the public doesn't often see, giving fans a glimpse of the woman beneath the crown.
He writes: "Modest and naturally shy – The Queen once confided to a friend, 'I'm absolutely terrified of sitting next to people in case they talk about things I've never heard of' – she does not crave celebrity for itself, instead seeing herself as the public face of the institution of monarchy."
It is true that for millions across the world, Elizabeth II is the embodiment of monarchy. She is regarded as the champion of a handful of 'British' values: service, duty, steadfastness and stoicism.
But Matthew tells OK! she is also humble, insecure and joyful.
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"I think she is probably the only person who can distinguish between her, Lillibet, and her, the Queen, and I suspect that Lillibet hasn't really changed," Matthew says.
"She has a very clear understanding of what it means to be Queen. She's been this object of extraordinary interest from infancy yet normally when you read about the Queen you tend to be told that her life changed when she turned 10 and her father became King – it was as if all the lightbulbs started flashing then.
"But in fact she had that from the day she was born so from the moment she was old enough to understand that, she must have had a sense of herself as a public person. Like anyone who has become used to being a public person from so early on, she will understand the difference between public and private.
"My feeling is that the private woman is still diffident and shy but that she’s become more confident in her role as Queen.
"That confidence happened quite quickly – by the 60s people were saying she was very at home in her skin as monarch."
Next year the Queen will celebrate 70 years since her accession to the throne. The Platinum Jubilee is expected to be celebrated in June 2022 in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
But Matthew says the Queen doesn't view it as a celebration of herself.
"The Queen doesn’t really set any store on these anniversaries," he says.
"She made it clear when she became Britain’s longest reigning monarch that it was simply that she had lived longer than Queen Victoria. She personally doesn’t consider that an achievement nor is there any bit of her that wants to score points over Queen Victoria.
"Because of her outlook on monarchy she will recognise that this is a first in British history and therefore something to be marked but I don’t think she’ll see it as a celebration of herself. She’ll see it as an opportunity for community spirit and celebration."
This year, the Queen will summer in Balmoral, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family.
"By the time the Queen gets to Balmoral this summer she’ll have had a certain amount of healing time since the death of her husband," Matthew says.
"There are so many sweet anecdotes about her summers there with Philip. One time, some neighbours went over for a BBQ and what really struck them was the Queen preparing the food and singing “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones” [From Dem Bones, a spiritual song, first recorded by The Famous Myers Jubilee Singers in 1928].
"She was relaxed and happy.”
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