Over a year after Elizabeth II died at Balmoral in September 2022, new details have emerged about her last moments in a book by Robert Hardman, ‘Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story‘.
Extracts are being serialised in the Daily Mail, the first of which came out yesterday.
The book’s blurb quesitons: ‘How would – or could – he fill the shoes of the record-breaking Elizabeth II?’
‘With fresh debates about the monarchy, political upheavals and a steady flow of damning headlines unleashed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Charles could not afford to put a foot wrong. Hardman draws on unrivalled access to the Royal Family, friends of the King and Queen, key officials and courtiers, plus unpublished royal papers, to chart the transition from those emotionally charged days following the death of the late Queen all through that make or break first year on the throne.’
Inside, and part of the Daily Mail serialisation, we learn of a memo about Her Majesty’s death, which has only been made public now. Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s Private Secretary, wrote:’Very peaceful. In her sleep. Slipped away. Old age. She wouldn’t have been aware of anything. No pain.’
The historic document is now part of the Royal Archives, housed in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle.
The late Queen was known for putting duties above everything else and the biography reinforces that. It reveals how her red box of government paperwork was found by a footman at Elizabeth II’s deathbed; it also contained two letters – one to her eldest son and the other to Sir Edward.
The box also contained her one last piece of paperwork and last royal order: her choice of candidates for the prestigious Order of Merit for ‘exceptionally meritorious service’ across the Commonwealth.
In the biography, with ‘unrivalled access to the Royal Family, friends of the King and Queen, key officials and courtiers, plus unpublished royal papers’, Hardman writes how ‘even on her deathbed, there had been work to do. And she had done it’.
In the final moments of the Queen’s death, it was The Princess Royal and Angela Kelly who were at her bedside, with the pair taking it in turns to be with her, with support from Rev Kenneth MacKenzie, a long-serving minister at nearby Crathie Kirk, who read to her from the Bible.
Charles and Camilla also spent an hour with the late Queen before she died.
Hardman states that at the time of Elizabeth II passing, Charles was out looking for mushrooms and was driving back to Balmoral when his most senior aide took a call. It was at this moment that Charles was addressed for the first time as ‘Your Majesty’.
The biography also touches on moments Charles shared with his two sons in the lead-up to his mother’s death. The book notes how the Prince of Wales had urged both William and Harry personally to visit the Queen as soon as possible, as he was led to believe that she had days to live.
Prince William took a private flight with the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, now The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.
After the moment Elizabeth II had passed, Charles had to call the palace switchboard to be put through to William, in order to break the news. But he realised he couldn’t indicate the important news that he was now King, without his family first knowing – he simply had to say ‘it’s me’. The King tried to get hold of his youngest son but he was already on a plane to Scotland.
At the time, The Duke of Sussex had been on a trip to Germany with his wife, The Duchess of Sussex, for the Invictus Games. The couple now live in California, undertaking their own charitable works.
This book is also set to reveal how Charles III is ‘determined to move ahead at speed, the vital role played by Queen Camilla, The King’s relationships with his sons and the rest of his family, his plans for reforming the Monarchy and how he is taking his place on the world stage’, according to its blurb.
Charles III is a fascinating portrait of a hard-working, modern monarch, determined to remain true to himself and to his Queen, to make a difference, to weather the storms – and, what’s more, to enjoy it.
You can buy ‘Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story‘ by Robert Hardman, which is due to be released on 18th January, here.