Queen Elizabeth II, who recently became the longest-reigning British Monarch in history, is busy from morning until midnight it would seem… Take a look at The Queen’s daily routine and how she spends most of her time.
Rising at around 8.30 am, Her Majesty is greeted by the sounds of the bagpipes each morning at nine, as a piper plays on the terrace beneath her apartment at Buckingham Palace. She usually takes a bath before having breakfast alone, and it is usually Cornflakes or Special K cereal and fresh or dried fruit. At Christmas, when she usually receives truffles as a gift, The Queen will have scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a grating of truffle as a festive treat.
Starting the day out with the formalities before any of the fun starts, The Queen takes her time to read the daily newspapers, catching up with the latest goings on in the world – she is Head of State of 16 governments, and leader of the Commonwealth of 53 nations, and so it is important to stay abreast of world news.
Then it’s down to the ‘fan mail’, as it might be called: Her Majesty can receive over 300 letters from the public every single day, and she makes it her personal mission to choose a few which she would like to reply to each morning, usually taking a random sample. The ones she doesn’t have time to reply to personally are answered by a lady-in-waiting, who is given instructions on how the replies are to be written.
Once the letters are dealt with, it’s then time to open the contents of the famous ‘Red Boxes’, sent up by Her Majesty’s Private Secretaries. These are full of important letters, such as Cabinet documents, telegrams and state papers, which The Queen must read, approve and sign. They are sent to The Queen each and every day, wherever she is: the only day she has off from her red boxes is Christmas Day.
The Queen spends time away from her desk travelling the country
In contrast to a morning sat at her desk (like the rest of us), The Queen often spends her mornings out in the UK, undertaking engagements. Normally, these visits are on behalf of her patronages, and she is usually accompanied by her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh. The couple visit venues across the country, sometimes this is up to three visits before lunch! Both Her Majesty and Prince Philip, 89 and 94 respectively, are still very active and carry out hundreds of engagements each year.
Of course, in recent years, the Monarch has slowed down on these visits, and Prince Philip officially ‘retired’ in 2017, so she is more likely to spend time inside the residence conducting meetings, audiences and receptions there.
After all the morning admin, when at Buckingham Palace (or Windsor Castle on Thursdays and Fridays), the clock is only reading 11, and it’s time for Her Majesty to attend meetings. The Queen dedicates one-on-one time with special guests, such as overseas ambassadors, High Commissioners, newly appointed British ambassadors, and senior members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces. These usually last no more than 20 minutes to ensure relevant and important topics are discussed, but not to eat into too much of Her Majesty’s daily schedule.
On some occasions, instead of The Queen’s normal meetings, she will attend award ceremonies, to hand out prizes and awards to individuals who have won awards cross a variety of disciplines. These can include The Queen’s medal for Nursing, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the Commonwealth Book Prize, or the more formal investiture ceremonies to give OBEs, CBEs, MBEs, knighthoods and more to those who have made a difference in their community or field of work.
After all that hard work, it’s time for a lunch break, which The Queen often chooses to take privately. A typical lunch, served at 1pm, would be fish and vegetables, such as a grilled Dover sole on a bed of wilted spinach or courgettes, reports a former royal chef. It is said Her Majesty avoids carbohydrates.
However, once a month, she and the Duke host an informal lunch with guests from different backgrounds in the UK. These can include charity volunteers, businessmen and women; on other occasions, the lunch date may be more intimate with the newly-appointed or retiring Governor-General and their guests.
Once lunch is over, it is often time for The Queen to go out and about. With so many invitations, it would be impossible for Her Majesty to attend them all, so she hand picks events to ensure her (limited) time is used effectively. The Queen manages to attend hundreds of royal engagements each year – though she is slowing down a little, ranging from visits to schools, military units, newly opened hospitals, and charity headquarters. She really does lead a varied life.
Her Majesty uses the royal helicopter, or the royal train for long distance travel to engagements
When travelling outside of London, The Queen will use the royal helicopter, or sometimes or RAF aircraft for the ease and speed it brings. This enables her to meet more people, open more events and buildings, and unveil plaques. If a visit is to be an entire day, Elizabeth will use the royal train, which functions as a portable palace – albeit much less roomy and grand. The Queen and Duke then usually travel home overnight on the train.
Long-haul travel has been all but ruled out for the Monarch now thanks to her age, with Prince Charles taking over any work that requires lengthy travel.
Other admin tasks she must complete include those regarding the Balmoral and Sandringham estates, The Queen’s private homes in Aberdeenshire and Norfolk respectively. Throughout her reign, The Queen has remained strongly attached to the Norfolk estate, just as her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were. Her Majesty shares part of this role with The Duke of Edinburgh, where they are both deeply involved in the estate life, and with the tenant farmers and employees who live and work at their rural homes.
Family visits will be booked in advance – there is no ‘dropping by’ at Buckingham Palace because mummy, granny or auntie is The Queen! For any children who attended school at Eton, they often remark they visited Her Majesty at Windsor Castle quite often during their schooling, as it is just across the river from the castle.
Afternoon tea is usually taken at 4pm, and the kitchens send up Earl Grey tea, scones, and a few varieties of sandwich. These include smoked salmon, cucumber, ham and mustard or egg mayonnaise. There are always jam pennies – Her Majesty’s favourites – which are jam sandwiches cut into rounds the size of an old penny. Chocolate biscuit cake, made with McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits, will often accompany the sweets and sandwiches; though it is said she only has a nibble of one or two items. This gives a much needed break from a busy schedule, but it is not long before she is working again.
The Queen also finds time amongst a packed day to look after her canine friends. Through the years, the Royal Family have chosen dogs as their favoured pets, and as an animal lover since childhood, The Queen (as of 2020) owns just two. Dorgis – a dachshund/corgi mix – Candy and Vulcan, and it is believed she took in a corgi of an estate worker in 2019. Her Majesty likes to travel with the corgis as much as possible, looking after them herself, despite sometimes a busy schedule.
They are well fed, usually on fine cuts of meat cooked in the royal kitchens; a former chef revealed he ‘simmered rabbit, cooked down some chicken, then finely chopped the meat, sieved the stock and returned the meat’ for the dogs.
As well as her favoured company, The Queen also takes the time to walk in the countryside with her working Labradors, bred in Sandringham, but this is only when she visits. They do not follow her around as the Corgis do.
But dogs are not The Queen’s only love, as she is a keen owner and breeder of racehorses. Her thoroughbreds often partake – and win – in high-stakes races at Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby and more. This is something else she is kept up-to-date with, the progress of training of her equine friends, and the breeding at the Sandringham studdery.
At the weekend, when the Sovereign is at Windsor, she can be spotted riding one of her favourite horses through Windsor Great Park. This is another way The Queen ‘gets away’ from the stresses of her job and relaxes.
As the day comes to an end, The Queen still has much to do. Once a week, usually on a Wednesday at 6:30pm, Elizabeth II will meet with The Prime Minister. This meeting is held strictly private: minutes are not taken, and the conversations are not spoke of to anyone.
During the pandemic, we got a glimpse at this confidential meeting, when The Queen spoke to Boris Johnson on the phone from Windsor.
Occasionally, former Prime Ministers will speak generally about these meetings;
The Queen ends her day with a gin and dubonnet each evening
At 7:30pm, The Queen will take the time to read the report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings, written by one of the government whips. Perhaps it is now that she indulges in her favourite drink – gin and dubonnet, measured in the ratio 1:2.
Dinner is almost always sourced from the royal stocks, including game or fish from Sandringham, or venison or salmon from Balmoral. Again, she usually eats on her own – unless there is a dinner or banquet she is attending, and prefers a carb-free dinner: no potatoes, rice or pasta. For dessert, Her Majesty is fond of Windsor-grown white peaches.
It’s now around 9pm, and it’s party time for The Queen, as her evenings are regularly used to host official receptions, alongside the members of the Royal Family, at Buckingham Palace. The receptions are often in aid of the work of particular groups in the community, or will be held ahead of overseas visits.
We know Her Majesty watches TV (we have spied the Sky box in her sitting room!), and Downton Abbey was one of her favourites, where she tried to spot mistakes. Of course, it wasn’t set all that long before she was born! X-Factor was also on her list of ‘never-missed shows’ (apparently), and Eastenders and Coronation Street are firm favourites with a number of Royals. Dad’s Army and Last of the Summer Wine also make the cut, and it seems likely The Queen is just like us, and sits down to watch the latest instalment of a series, when she can, to relax.
The Queen manages the balance between her public and private duties, by ensuring she is kept well-briefed throughout. Hers is often the last light out at the Palace, as she continues to read her red boxes…