Queen Elizabeth's family persuaded her it was okay to die at Balmoral

Queen Elizabeth II waits in the Drawing Room before receiving Liz Truss for an audience at Balmoral, Scotland, where she invited the newly elected leader of the Conservative party to become Prime Minister and form a new government. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022.
Queen Elizabeth II waits in the Drawing Room at Balmoral in one of the last pictures taken of the late monarch. Credit: PA

Queen Elizabeth was concerned her death at Balmoral Castle might have caused too many difficulties, her daughter has revealed. The late Queen, who passed away on 8 September 2022, loved being on her Scottish estate and went there year after year to get away from her public role and spend private time with her family. Her daughter, Princess Anne, who was with her mother in the days and hours before she died, has spoken about the late Queen’s concerns for her passing and where she might be when it happened. The Princess Royal revealed Queen Elizabeth’s family urged her to put those worries to one side. “I think there was a moment when she felt that it would be more difficult if she died at Balmoral”, Anne said about her mother.

The plans for the death of the Monarch, known as London Bridge, are much more complex when the King or Queen dies in Scotland and, for the late Queen, that involved a long car journey to Edinburgh, a Lying At Rest in the Scottish capital and an RAF flight to London.

Princess Anne says her late mother expressed concerns about where she'd be when she passed away. Credit: PA

But Anne said: “We did try to persuade her that [location] shouldn’t be part of the decision-making process. So I hope she felt that was right in the end, because I think we did.” The late Queen’s only daughter was speaking in a new documentary to be aired over the Christmas holidays. She was staying on the Queen’s Aberdeenshire estate at the time and was due to be heading south when her mother became gravely ill. “In my case it was purely serendipity that I was there, she said.

And on the day of the funeral, when the Queen Elizabeth’s coffin reached its final resting place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, Anne spoke of her relief at the moment the Imperial State Crown was removed from the coffin. “I rather weirdly felt a sense of relief: that’s it, finished. That responsibility being moved on.”

The King leads the royal family behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during the committal service Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

The Princess Royal was speaking in a BBC documentary, Charles III: The Coronation Year, about her brother’s accession to the throne and the months before Coronation Day at Westminster Abbey. “To be honest”, Anne said about her brother becoming King Charles, “I’m not sure that anybody can really prepare themselves for that kind of change. At least, not easily. And then the change happens, and you go, ‘Okay, I now have to get on with it’.”

The filmmakers had been given access to the preparations for the Coronation Service in May, including the rehearsals in Buckingham Palace. A temporary stage had been erected in the palace ballroom which replicated the ‘Coronation Theatre’ inside Westminster Abbey so the various participants, including the King and Queen, other members of the Royal Family and the clergy could practice their roles for the historic occasion. In one rehearsal, when Queen Camilla wears her long Coronation robe for the first time, her page boys fail to keep up with her walking pace. “Boys, you are pulling it off me!”, the Queen jokes.

The BBC's documentary, Charles III: The Coronation Year, will look at the new monarch's accession to the throne. Credit: BBC

One of her closest friends, Lady Lansdowne, who was a Lady-in-Attendance on Coronation Day, said: “So for those small boys, it was teaching them how to hold it properly, keeping it straight … because if they didn't keep to the right pace with her she would be pulled backwards.” The Queen’s sister-in-law, Princess Anne talked about how she has known Camilla for as “long time off and on.” “Her understanding of her role and how much difference it makes to the King has been absolutely outstanding,”, Anne said.

“This role is not something that she’d be a natural for but she does it really well…and she provides that change of speed and tone, that’s equally important.” The Queen’s sister, Annabel Elliot, was her other Lady-in-Attendance on Coronation Day, and spoke about how Charles and Camilla compliment one another.

Days before the Coronation, the King is seen hugging his grandchildren Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, as they arrive at Westminster Abbey to practice their roles. On the day, Prince William was the first to pay homage to the newly crowned King and in the rehearsals, he was filmed kissing the wrong cheek.

“Wasn’t it that side?”, the King asked pointing to the other side of his face.

Tapping the correct side, William said: “Your left cheek is better!”

Nothing could really prepare Charles for such a change, but he thought 'Okay, I now have to get on with it', Princess Margaret said. Credit: BBC

The Prince of Wales then said he was worried about his job fastening a cloak around the King and Charles joked :“You haven’t got sausage-fingers like mine!” Queen Camilla’s sister, who was by her side throughout the service, remembered watching the late Queen’s Coronation in 1953 “on a tiny black and white television”. Annabel is filmed waving to her sister as she left Buckingham Palace for the service at Westminster Abbey, and then wiping away tears. “There goes this golden coach with my sister in it. I can't explain the feeling because it’s so surreal and this cannot be happening. Yeah, it was quite a moment.”

The programme will be shown on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Boxing Day.

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