Senior sources at Buckingham Palace were pushing back hard Monday against claims that Queen Elizabeth was opposed to gay marriage when it was introduced in the U.K. in 2013.
The Mail makes the astonishing claim—which goes against Her Majesty’s reputation for tolerance and open-mindedness—in a new series penned by gossip columnist Richard Kay launching in the paper today.
The Mail claims that the queen did not approve of the legalization of same-sex marriage, and expressed her frustration to a friend at the height of the controversy.
The friend, according to The Mail, said: “It was the ‘marriage’ thing that she thought was wrong, because marriage ought to be sacrosanct between a man and a woman.”
However, sources at the palace poured cold water on those claims.
“It seems unlikely that one of her friends would pass on her thoughts to The Mail,” sniffed one senior courtier to The Daily Beast.
Palace staff—many of whom are gay—are hamstrung by the fact that the queen maintains strict political neutrality and would never publicly comment either way about issues such as same-sex marriage.
However, one courtier did make an explicit—for them— denunciation of the claims by emailing The Daily Beast a link to a piece in Pink News in which the gay TV presenter and comedian Stephen Fry recounted the following story: “When the queen signed the Royal Assent for the Equal Marriages Act, allowing gay people to marry for the first time, she put it down and said ‘Well, who’d have thought 62 years ago when I came to the throne, I’d be signing something like this? Isn’t it wonderful?’”
Although Fry says the story is apocryphal, the fact that palace staffers were ready to email the story to an ink-stained wretch is a pretty clear sign that they consider The Mail’s report to be inaccurate, and a mischaracterization of the queen’s views.
“We’re not going to get into a did she / didn’t she,” said the source, but called the story “spurious and unsubstantiated.”
Queen Elizabeth has previously signaled her support for gay rights in very public ways.
She was a passionate supporter of a “Commonwealth Charter” signed in 2013 which declared: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief, or other grounds.”
The ”other grounds” referred to sexuality—but specific reference to ”gays and lesbians” was omitted for fear of upsetting Commonwealth countries with draconian anti-gay laws.
The queen, unlike her son Charles, has studiously maintained an apolitical stance throughout her reign.
She appeared to intervene in the Scottish independence referendum when she told a group of well-wishers outside Sandringham church to “think very carefully about the future” the day before the vote.
It was reported that the queen was urged to speak after an appeal from Downing Street, as the Out campaign gained ground, but this allegation has never been proven or acknowledged.
There is little doubt that the queen was delighted with the result when the Scots voted not to leave the U.K.
Prime Minister David Cameron was caught on an open microphone telling Michael Bloomberg that she “purred” with happiness down the line when he phoned her with the result.