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It was her late private secretary Lord Charteris who remarked that she ‘combines her mother’s charm with her father’s shyness’. We do hint at taking some things off her, but she won’t have anything of it.‘She’s so dedicated and really determined to finish everything she started.And the Queen was visibly thrilled: it was almost as if she was saying: ‘This is the point of me.’ ‘We all wanted it to go smoothly because it was such a big deal,’ says Prince William.
And that clearly includes the new Duchess of Cambridge.
As I have discovered, history is important to her, but the present is rather more important.
‘But this was like a big door opening up to her that had been locked for so long.
And now she has been able to see what’s behind the door.’ There were certainly plenty of personal subtexts to this tour, not least the murder of Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, by the IRA during a family holiday in County Sligo in 1979. ‘As far as she was concerned, in terms of the relationship between Britain and Ireland and the Troubles, it was time to move on from that.
I know a lot of Irish people, and so many of them were excited about the visit that I knew it would go well.’Whereas he can ‘nip in’ to Ireland relatively easily, he points out, the country had been off-limits to the Queen all her life.
‘She was so excited about it and really looking forward to it. ‘Normally,’ he continues, ‘with a lot of tours, there’s a certain amount of apprehension, but also “I’ve done this before”.
It’s funny, but when you get a letter from her or a bit of praise, it goes a long, long way, more so than anyone else saying “well done” to you.
It’s mainly because there’s such gravitas behind those words.’ By any standards, it was a diplomatic watershed, a genuinely historic exercise in reconciliation and friendship.
It’s also a contributing factor to the Queen being, in the words of one bishop, ‘the happiest I have ever seen her’.
Not only is she supported by the most experienced Prince of Wales in history, but she can also take genuine pride in the calibre of the next royal generation down the line.
And I think there was extra pressure for her to perform.’He remains in awe of the way she managed it: ‘You see the pictures of her and she looks so incredibly natural in the role. And that’s the thing about her: you present a challenge in front of her and she’ll climb it. You make it up a lot as you go along.‘So to be proven right when it’s your decision-making gives you a lot of confidence.