I have been watching the excellent Andrew Marr-fronted documentary on the BBC ‘The Diamond Queen’. I realised very quickly my knowledge of Elizabeth II is coloured by events in my own life and I was on a journey of discovery about a lady that has been a constant thread.
The Queen was my father’s boss for 25 years, as he served in the Royal Air Force. Her likeness was on the coins I used to purchase my Saturday sweets and comics. She was even in the cinema with me, as the national anthem was played at the beginning of all films, when we were stationed abroad. I have seen her children get married and sadly divorced, the funeral of her mother and then the marriages of some of her Grandchildren. I have celebrated her Birthday and she was always at our house for Christmas Lunch at 3pm, punctual as ever.
I really feel I know her!
I was happily mistaken there is even more to this extraordinary gem of a woman. Elizabeth Alexandra Windsor is a person with many facets, an individual in her own right; a mother \ grandmother, indeed a great grandmother and the CEO of possibly one of the most unusual companies in the world!
During the first episode HRH The Duke of Cambridge reflects on how difficult it must have been at 25 years old to be the Monarch.
He smiles and replies with admiration in his voice, “It must have been very daunting to have all that responsibility placed on her in a time which was so male dominated.” Prince William goes on to say that his Grandmother is a true professional at her trade and knows how to engage with everyone to make them feel comfortable.”
Authenticity is a real gift; to make others feel valued reaps huge rewards for everyone. When we all take the time to be ourselves and listen we learn so much more. Winston Churchill was highly regarded by the Queen as a great orator who she said, ‘spoke in a romantic and glittering way.’ In their later dealings she discovered he was not such a good listener.
As Epictetus the Greek philosopher said, “We have two ears and one month so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
I think of all the people the Queen has had the privilege of meeting and they her: it is an illustrious list filled with Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, movie stars, artist, musicians and even us.
Prince Harry commented, “The Queen carries herself so well and has a smile that brings a room to life.” She brings to these events colour, confidence, poise and always a touch of humour. I love the fact that as a child when the young Elizabeth was told to read more, she chose to read comedies by P. G. Woodhouse.
As the programme continued I was totally unprepared at my reaction to a speech Elizabeth gave in South Africa when she was only 21. She read from the prepared script with such clarity of thought and dignity:
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong, but I shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”
As the words resonated in my head I could see how focussed and motivated she was in achieving her task, however still gracious enough to ask for support.
We all need help, support or a sounding board to enable us to be the best we can be. David Cameron, the present Prime Minister says of his weekly meetings with the Queen, “There is no-one else in the room just us, this makes me think more clearly and focuses my mind. She helps me to reveal my deepest thinking and worries about issues, that really helps you reach the answers. It is quiet simply always a frank, open and informative meeting.”
Most top CEO’s have a mentor that makes them accountable, keeps them focussed and motivated. As the programme draws to an end I realise with a smile, I have something in common with the Queen: I too do this for my clients.