Cover (Image: Leon Neal/AFP)

In her book The Other Side of the Coin, the Queen's royal dresser and close confidante Angela Kelly shares stories from her time with the monarch

At 93 years old, Queen Elizabeth II is not only the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch but also the subject of enduring popularity. Based on a public opinion poll by YouGov in August this year, the Queen received 72 per cent positive opinion, placing her at the top spot in the British royal family.

Her personal life has also always been of intrigue to the public—with historical drama television series The Crown chronicling the life of the monarch from the 1940s to modern-day.

Now her personal wardrobe advisor Angela Kelly is offering a glimpse into Queen Elizabeth behind the scenes with her book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe.

Published with blessings from the Queen, the book offers intimate anecdotes from Angela’s interactions with Queen Elizabeth since her appointment in 2002, as well as never-before-seen photos of the royal. Here are seven interesting facts we learned about the Queen:

1. Queen Elizabeth has a wicked sense of humour

Despite her prim and proper public image, it’s no secret that the Queen is extremely humorous. And based on Angela’s accounts, it seems like the monarch also takes kindly to a prank or two.

In one anecdote, the dressmaker described how she placed a stuffed kookaburra on the balcony in a little cage when they were in Sydney, in a bid to play an April Fool’s joke on Queen Elizabeth.

“The Queen looked outside and shouted, ‘It’s a kookaburra!’ I went to open the cage doors and she said loudly, ‘No! Don’t do that! It will fly away!’ and was behind me in a flash. Turning to Her Majesty while trying to keep a straight face, I solemnly told her it was dead. She looked horrified as I walked towards her with outstretched arms and as she took the bird from my hands, she realised I had been winding her up.”

Amidst laughter, the monarch told her right-hand woman: “You’re sacked!”

2. She loves to purchase silk from Singapore

“We have a particular tradition whenever we go to Singapore. There’s never enough time to go to the market, but as Her Majesty loves Singaporean silk, local tradespeople bring their stalls to the airport when she is due to arrive so that she can personally browse all they have to offer,” Angela wrote.

She went on to share an episode that is probably relatable to all of us.

On a stop in Singapore a few years ago, Angela was making payment for the Queen’s silks when she was advised by the stall owners to claim tax back on the purchase. “The Queen is always keen to keep costs down, so off I went in search of someone who could help.”

“A few minutes later, as I was getting the tax back, another member of the royal staff rushed up to me in a panic, shouting that we had to go straight away as the plane was leaving right that second. Soon I was running across the tarmac, flying up the steps to the plane just in time. I was so thrilled, I shouted over the plane's engines a phrase I am sure the Queen does not hear very often: ‘I've got your tax back!’ The look on the Queen's face was priceless as I handed her the tax refund.”

3. She’s the first royal to publicly shun fur

Criticised by animal rights campaigners in the past for stepping out in fox fur coats and hats, the Queen has made a conscious decision to shun real fur in favour of faux fur.

According to Angela, “If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onwards fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

This has also been confirmed by Buckingham Palace, though the palace has added that not all fur on existing outfits will be replaced. “The Queen will continue to re-wear existing outfits in her wardrobe.”

4. The Queen broke protocol for James Bond

Sports fans who tuned into the London 2012 Olympic Games would remember an iconic scene involving Queen Elizabeth and James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, for the opening ceremony.

Invited by film director Danny Boyle to make a special appearance for the short film, the Queen was reportedly “amused” by the idea and immediately agreed to it.

“I asked then if she would like a speaking part. Without hesitation, Her Majesty replied: Of course I must say something. After all, he is coming to rescue me,” Angela recounted.

“The Queen's only stipulation was that she could deliver that iconic line: Good evening, Mr Bond.’”

5. Queen Elizabeth loves pockets too

Queen Elizabeth is almost never seen with her hands in her pockets, but that’s not because she doesn’t like them. In fact, Angela shares that the Queen had always wanted to be photographed in informal poses, though her advisors had cautioned her against it.

For The Other Side of the Coin, Angela made the monarch's wish come true, with photographer Barry Jeffrey capturing the Queen with her hands inside her dress pockets, smiling and relaxed.

6. The Queen applies her own makeup

You’d think the Queen has her own glam squad for every occasion big or small, but it turns out she’s a one-woman show, except for one special day of the year, when she seeks the expertise of makeup artist Marilyn Widdess for the recording of the annual Christmas Day Queen’s Speech. It is broadcasted to as many as seven million people in the United Kingdom, along with millions of others around the Commonwealth.

“You might be surprised to know that this is the only occasion throughout the year when Her Majesty does not do her own makeup,” Angela wrote.

The Queen is said to favour Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream, a light dusting of Clarins’ Ever Matte Mineral Powder Compact in Transparent Fair, and a pristinely-applied fuchsia pink lipstick from Elizabeth Arden for her signature look.

7. A 'flunky' breaks in the Queen’s shoes for her

While the Queen is relatable in many ways, there’s one problem she would never face—and that’s breaking into a new shoe.

“As has been reported a lot in the press, a ‘flunky’ wears in Her Majesty’s shoes to ensure that they are comfortable and that she is always good to go. And yes, I am that ‘flunky’,” Angela confessed.

“The Queen has very little time to herself, and no time to wear in her own shoes, and as we share the same shoe size it makes the most sense this way.”

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.