The Queen is not looking forward to sailing down the Thames on a barge to celebrate her 60th Jubilee, according to her cousin and closest confidante, Margaret Rhodes.
“Excitement is not quite the right word,” Mrs Rhodes, who lives in Windsor Great Park, and on whom the Queen drops in on most Sundays after church, tells Elizabeth Grice in today's Telegraph. “I think there might be a tiny shred or two of mild dread. She slightly dreads the ship thing, rather as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother slightly dreaded celebrating her 100th birthday. There’s a sense of 'am I going to get through it all’?”
Mrs Rhodes, author of a biography, 'The Final Curtsey', is referring to the seven-mile journey The Queen will undertake on the newly created royal barge, Gloriana, which will progress down the Thames on June 3 in the company of 1,000 other ships for the riverboat pageant.
Margaret Rhodes is the daughter of a big-game hunter and explorer, the 16th Baron Elphinstone, and Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon, whose sister, Elizabeth, was to marry the future King George VI and became the Queen Mother.
She also tells Grice about the importance of Prince Philip to the Queen: “He hasn’t always had a good press, mainly because of what they call his gaffes, which to my mind are just down-to-earth, naval officer’s jokes. I always used to be rather frightened of him when I was younger. You’d say something stupid, just by way of making conversation, and he’d pounce: 'Why do you say that?’ A very frightening habit. But he’s become much mellower and easier in his old age.”
She adds: “It was horribly worrying for the Queen when he had that little heart scare at Christmas. She was trying to make life easier for him, but he doesn’t like that. He wants to be able to carry on in his old ways, which is wonderful, aged 90. You go on doing something you’ve always done until for some reason you can’t do it any more.”
Mrs Rhodes also tells a story of how she was out riding with the Queen at Sandringham at the height of the Irish Troubles. “There was a thick mist. She said casually: 'Oh, I’ve just read this morning that the IRA have got a very smart new rifle that sees through mist.’ We just went on riding into the mist.”
Sixty years and hardly a slip.