Queen Elizabeth: with gasps and laughter

mourners for Queen Elizabeth II outside Buckingham PalaceTomorrow is the Queen’s funeral. There will be a great deal of black and much sombre music. And probably quite a few tears. Not a day for laughter.

But the Queen was a woman who had a mischievous sense of humour, a woman who, in private and sometimes in public, loved a joke.

Remembering the Queen’s sense of fun

So today, in advance of all that sombre black, I suggest we remember her funny side. Mostly, as Sophie said last week, she kept a straight face in case someone was offended. But sometimes, just sometimes, she had a chance to let her puckish sense of fun have full rein.

Do you remember how we all reacted when we saw her going to the Olympics with James Bond, in 2012? Do play or replay the video above. It’s a joy. (And apologies if the video doesn’t appear in email versions of this blog. If you click on the image above, it should play in YouTube. It is also available on the Libertà website.)

man gasps in surprise at smartphone maybe with laughter to followApparently, the producers of the Olympic opening ceremony were shocked when they learned that the Queen wanted to be in the film herself. They had assumed that a double would be used.

They thought their only issue was to ensure that the actress playing the role wore the same dress that the Queen would be wearing, as Frank Cottrell-Boyce explains here.

And then the royal dresser told them that the Queen wanted to play herself.
Gasps all round. But how could they refuse?

They didn’t. Of course they didn’t. And the first gasps from the audience came when the figure at the desk in Buckingham Palace turned round to 007 and it really was the Queen. She then accompanied James Bond to the helicopter for the flight to the opening ceremony. The film showed it crossing London.

olympics 2012 queen parachute jump led to gasps and laughterPeople would have expected the helicopter to land in the stadium and for the Queen to step out, regally, followed by Mr Bond.


As we all discovered when that peach-clad figure jumped and the Union Jack parachute opened. To more gasps, followed by delighted laughter and applause.

And when the peach-clad Queen walked into the stadium, moments later, she kept a straight face. I think there’s a twinkle of laughter there, though. Don’t you?

The Queen loved to laugh…and to act

Not only did the Queen love to laugh, she also loved to act. And she started young.

The image above shows the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) acting as principal boy in a Christmas pantomime during World War II. She was still a teenager then. Her even younger sister, Princess Margaret, is alongside, also in costume. No doubt the family loved it all. There may even have been gasps of laughter.

Definite laughter

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebration banner

There was obvious and definite laughter in the Queen’s encounter with Paddington Bear for her platinum jubilee earlier this year.

It can’t have been easy for her to make this film. After all—and I’m really sorry if this shatters your illusions—Paddington wasn’t actually there. Did someone play the part to help the Queen get the reactions right? We’ll probably never know, but she did it beautifully.

She was, as so many have said, a class act.

So enjoy her Paddington encounter in the video below. I’ll admit it does make me a little emotional when I watch it, echoing Paddington’s sentiments, “Thank you. For everything.”


Libertà co-founder Joanna Maitland


6 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth: with gasps and laughter

  1. Liz Fielding

    What a joy to see these moments again, Joanna. Thank you. I think my favourite photograph of HM is when she was laughing as she passed Prince Phillip standing to attention in full fig guard’s uniform. Clearly he’d said something that tickled her. Such a sweet moment. And when Sophie and I were driving into London last Friday the roads were lined with huge photographs of the Queen smiling. Such a lovely tribute.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you, Liz. I do agree that there needs to be joy and celebration as well as mourning. It was a long life, well lived, so it’s good to see her smiling and laughing.

  2. lesley2cats

    I’ve always had a sort of fondness for the Queen, despite my ambivalence (to say the least) towards the monarchy as a whole, and i loved the two moments you quote, Joanna. And, of course, I was with her all the way in her love of pantomime. I do hope her children and grandchildren have a bit of a jolly private wake. Mine will be in our “local” and I want raucous singing and much drink taken. Cheers, your Maj.

Comments are closed.