Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

The Queen’s twilight hours — How Her Majesty spent her final summer

Queen Elizabeth II: Royals arrive at Balmoral

Queen Elizabeth II, a mother, grandmother, and the nation’s longest-serving monarch, died almost one year ago to the day, on September 8, 2022.

Buckingham Palace confirmed the news on that fateful Thursday evening, bringing a staggering 70-year reign to an end.

The newly appointed King Charles said the death of his beloved mother was a “moment of great sadness” for him and his family and that her loss would be “deeply felt” around the world.

Tributes immediately poured in from far and wide, as the UK was plunged into a period of mourning, culminating in a state funeral unlike any other witnessed in British history.

Here, Express.co.uk charts what we know about Her Majesty’s final days before a nation said goodbye to its Queen.

READ MORE: How King Charles will mark one year anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s death

Concerns about the Queen’s health began to build on that September Thursday, with rumours spreading like wildfire after Buckingham Palace announced she was under supervision after her doctors became “concerned for Her Majesty’s health”.

The world watched with bated breath as the Queen’s family flocked to her bedside at her Balmoral residence where she spent her final weeks.

Charles and Camilla — now the King and Queen Consort — were the first to make the journey. Kensington Palace also confirmed that Prince William was headed to Scotland while the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate, stayed with their children.

Crowds of people began to gather outside royal residences to wish the monarch well, before the moment the nation had been dreading arrived — a statement from the palace that said: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.”

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While Princess Anne was already at Balmoral, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward also journeyed north of the border as quickly as they could. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were in the UK preparing to attend the WellChild Awards ceremony in London, with the Duke of Sussex rushing up to Scotland to see his grandmother.

It is fitting that the Queen spent her final moments at Balmoral, her summer holiday home where the Royal Family have many memories together, a place which had long been described as Her Majesty’s favourite place to get away from the rigours of royal life.

Speaking at the time, Sky News presenter James Matthews described how the Queen had spent the summer. He said: “She was in good spirits on Tuesday. When she met Liz Truss she was in a jovial mood. She commented about the weather. She commented on the dark skies.

“She has been out and about in recent weeks. She has been seen picnicking with her lady-in-waiting. She’s been seen walking the corgis, lunching and picnicking at her mother’s fishing hut, with and without a stick. People told me she looked happier and healthier than she had done perhaps a couple of weeks ago.”

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Members of the royal family have shared equally touching memories of their times spent at the country retreat.

Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter, once said of the castle: “I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands. Walks, picnics, dogs — a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs — and people coming in and out all the time.

“It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there, where you just have room to breathe and run.”

While this final summer was spent without her beloved Prince Philip, who died in April 2021, it was nonetheless one filled with family, love, and treasured moments.

Rebecca English, royal editor for the Daily Mail, wrote that a source “with intimate knowledge of the goings-on at Balmoral” had told her how Her Majesty spent her twilight weeks enjoying the country life she had so often turned to for comfort.

She walked her corgis in the gardens, slowly and steadily. She read; she rested. English added that a “handful of loyal staff who vowed to stay with her until the end” surrounded Her Majesty in those final weeks.

She wrote: “Her 6ft 4in Page of the Backstairs Paul Whybrew — ‘Tall Paul’ — and Barry Mitford, her Serjeant-at-Arms were with her, as always. The two men were her regular companions, bringing her the Racing Post each day and companionably sitting with her to watch her favourite sport on the television.”

“Also by her side was Angela Kelly, the Liverpudlian dock worker’s daughter who rose to become her right-hand woman with the title of Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to Her Majesty The Queen. Fiercely protective Angela – wittily dubbed ‘AK47’ – did not leave her side.”

According to a source of English, Angela had spent those final weeks “wrapping the Queen up in cotton wool. She’s been very overprotective and ensuring that Her Majesty hasn’t been doing too much.”

A slew of family members visited over the summer, too. Most recently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children, George, Charlotte and Louis, who called their great-grandmother ‘Gan-Gan’, and brought the life and joviality of childhood to the halls of Balmoral over that final summer.

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were regular features over the summer, too. Sophie and the Queen are known to have a particularly close bond, with their faith a source of comfort for them both.

Her Majesty’s late sister Princess Margaret’s two children, Lady Sarah Chatto, and the Earl of Snowdon, visited their beloved aunt over the summer too.

According to the Mail, a source reported: “It’s been a very typical and jolly summer at Balmoral, lots of walks and picnics and BBQs. It has followed the pace long set by the Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh. Obviously the Queen hasn’t been present throughout but she has taken part and been seen.”

A fitting farewell for the monarch who gave so much of her life in service.

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