LONDON — James Bond knew it. Paddington Bear knew it. Even her bodyguard chatting to the clueless American hiker knew it.
“I haven’t,” said the queen. Then she pointed at her protection officer Richard Griffin and said he “meets her regularly.”
After the hiker grilled Griffin on what the queen was like — “Oh, she can be very cantankerous at times, but she’s got a lovely sense of humor,” he replied — the hiker asked for a photo with the bodyguard and handed the queen a camera. (She happily obliged.)
The queen had a sense of humor. Oh boy, did she ever. She stole the show at the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympic Games in a James Bond skit that had her “jumping” out of a helicopter.
And let’s not forget the time when she teamed up with grandson Prince Harry to trade mic drops with Barack and Michelle Obama in a video promoting her grandson’s Invictus Games for wounded veterans. Boom. “Oh, really, please,” the queen deadpanned.
These sketches alone would be enough to endear her forever in the hearts of Brits. But it’s not only the big showstopper events where she allowed her humorous side to show.
She was also said to be a very good mimic.
The queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, once said: “The queen has a wicked sense of humor and is a great mimic. She can do all accents — including mine.”
The queen could also dish out quick quips and one-liners.
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Take her interactions at the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England, last year. During a group photo of the leaders, including President Biden, the queen broke the silence by reminding everyone they were “supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself.”
At another G-7 event that year, she went to cut a cake with a ceremonial sword and was offered a conventional knife instead. She refused it, saying that the sword was “more unusual.”
The humor was apparent from the very earliest days when a young woman was suddenly thrust into the limelight of the crown. At her coronation in 1953, which was televised and watched by millions around the world, the queen wore very heavy state robes. As the ceremony was about to begin, she asked if the archbishop of Canterbury could give her a tiny push to “get me started.”
It continued throughout her reign, especially as the world leaders she met grew younger and younger. In 2015, upon meeting a 43-year-old Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she remarked, “Thank you, prime minister of Canada, for making me feel so old,” after he said in his toast that she had first appeared on Canadian postage in 1935 at the age of 9.
Which isn’t to say the queen could be described as overly informal; in most situations, she was very serious, as befitting the gravity of her position.
“You don’t get matey with the Queen,” recalled former British prime minister Tony Blair. “Occasionally she can be matey with you, but don’t try to reciprocate or you get The Look,” he wrote in his memoir, “A Journey.”
As the British monarch and head of the Commonwealth, the queen was indeed a figure of dignity and authority, writes Karen Dolby in her book “The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II,” yet, “as anyone who has ever met with her will tell you, in person she is very warm and human with a well-developed sense of humour.”
Dolby recalls how, at one Buckingham Palace summer garden party, the queen was standing next to a party guest when that person’s cellphone rang. “You should answer it,” the queen said. “It might be someone important.”
It was thus entirely appropriate that her 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebration featured a comedy skit with Britain’s beloved fictional character, Paddington Bear.
In the course of the tea party at the palace, the queen reveals to the gaffe-prone bear that she always keeps a marmalade sandwich in her handbag. And then the two of them tap out “We Will Rock You” with their spoons on china teacups.
The crowd watching the prerecorded show outside Buckingham Palace swooned.
With the announcement of the queen’s passing on Thursday, Paddington Bear’s Twitter account echoed his final line from the sketch: “Thank you Ma’am, for everything.”
Thank you Ma’am, for everything.— Paddington (@paddingtonbear) September 8, 2022
Rachel Pannett in Sydney contributed to this report.