Book review: The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II Compiled by Karen Dolby

The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II Compiled by Karen Dolby
The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II Compiled by Karen Dolby

Queen Victoria may not have been amused… but her great great granddaughter most definitely is!

Renowned by all who know her well for her sparkling sense of humour and wicked wit, Queen Elizabeth II likes nothing better than to enjoy the funny side of life. As she told the nation in her Christmas broadcast in 1991, ‘Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.’

In her fascinating and entertaining little book, Karen Dolby reveals a side of the Queen’s personality that the public rarely see… those behind-closed-doors and off-camera moments when our merry monarch can relax and have fun.

Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was amazed by the Queen’s informal humour. He found her ‘extremely funny in private’ and ‘quite prepared to tease and be teased.’

And the socialist politician and diarist Richard Crossman wrote after meeting the Queen in the Sixties, ‘She laughs with her whole face and she cannot just assume a mere smile because she’s really a very spontaneous person.’

Dolby showers us with a royal wealth of whimsical words and queenly quips as we delight in the favourite stories of other members of the royal family about their much-loved ‘boss,’ alongside some terrifically tart remarks from her forthright husband and consort Prince Philip.

Occasionally, the Queen’s comments can be comically unintentional… when she met guitar legend Eric Clapton she innocently enquired ‘Have you been playing a long time?’ At other times, she can be deliberately and cannily astute… ‘I have to be seen to be believed.’

And sometimes, she can be exuberantly silly, perfectly demonstrated when staff at Balmoral discovered the Queen jumping up and down with glee after hearing that England had beaten Australia in the cricket. Not for nothing was her childhood nickname ‘Merry Mischief.’

Like the rest of the royal family, the Queen is not above poking fun at herself and it is said no one is safe from her love of a good joke. Indeed, Her Majesty has been known to terrorise unsuspecting guests with her wild driving, and is reportedly a wonderful mimic.

So, as we prepare to celebrate our Queen succeeding Victoria as Britain’s longest-serving monarch, why not get to know her a little better and share some of the wit and humour that has helped to make her such a popular figure for over 60 years.

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £9.99)