Prim and proper could describe the public’s perception of Queen Elizabeth during her well-regarded 70-year reign.
“For Charles and the Queen, their lives were quite literally their job. Every move they made, every smile or raised eyebrow, every relationship made or severed, was seen as part of their defining function: simply to be the royal family,” Labor politician Peter Mandelson wrote in his memoir, according to The New Yorker.
Nevertheless, the queen could banter and throw out a bon mot on occasion. In 2007, when President George W. Bush slipped up and mistakenly said the royal had celebrated the founding of the US in 1776 instead of 1976, she quipped, “I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, ‘When I was here in 1776.’ “
And like any family, there was drama. There was the complicated relationship with her younger sister, Margaret, tensions between the queen and Princess Diana, and the rumor about the role she played in Harry and Meghan‘s departure from the royal family.
Below are four of the queen’s biggest royal disses.
Erased Harry and Meghan from her holiday broadcast
Remember when Harry and Meghan quit the royal family in 2020? Queen Elizabeth is partly to thank for that, a book has claimed. According to “Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan,” she directed an aide to move a portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their then-8-month-old son, Archie, off camera before recording her 2019 holiday broadcast. The queen looked at the photo choices and told the director that “all were fine but one,” according to one of the book’s sources, referring specifically to the photo with the Sussexes. She added, “I suppose we don’t need that one.” The decision came after Meghan and Harry decided not to spend Christmas in the UK and with Meghan’s mother instead. Although their formal abdication announcement came out after that broadcast, the couple told Oprah in their March 2021 interview that they left largely due to a lack of support from the royal family.
Made Princess Diana wait 30 minutes for a meeting
Despite what initially seemed like a good rapport between the two, Elizabeth quickly changed her mind and began feeling like Diana was too much to handle. Diana told biographer Andrew Morton that at one point, “She indicated to me that the reason why [my] marriage had gone downhill because Prince Charles was having such a difficult time with my bulimia,” not taking into account Charles’ affair with Camilla.
Biographer Ingrid Seward wrote in her book, “The Queen and Di,” about another instance between the two when Diana went to visit Elizabeth and was told to wait. According to Seward, a footman told the queen, “The princess cried three times in half-an-hour while she was waiting to see you.” The queen replied, “I had her for an hour — and she cried nonstop.” This was to take a jab at Diana for not being proper enough and wearing her emotions on her sleeve instead of keeping them hidden.
Sabotaged her sister’s happiness
Tina Brown wrote in her book, “The Palace Papers,” that Elizabeth’s younger sister Margaret wanted to marry a much older and divorced man, Peter Townsend, an air force officer. Many in the government, including her sister, not only thought that he would be an unsuitable husband for her, and the Church of England outright refused to marry her to a divorced man. Elizabeth had the couple prolong their engagement until Margaret was 25, and as more negative press about the couple circulated, they eventually ended the relationship. Margaret later married Antony Armstrong-Jones, whom she divorced despite Elizabeth’s stigma against it.
Got sassy with world leaders
Elizabeth was known for her wit and made no exception for world leaders. In 2016, she met with Martin McGuinness, the deputy prime minister of Ireland, and was asked if she was well. The queen responded: “Well, I’m still alive, anyway.” During a photo op during the 2021 G7 Summit, she quipped to Boris Johnson, “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?” The royal was standing between the prime minister and French President Emmanuel Macron. Johnson replied, “Yes, definitely we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves in spite of appearances.”