When you’re writing about the Queen, I don’t think there’s much point in pretending you’re talking about a real person. I can’t claim to be talking about one particular British woman, 91, mother of four, surname Windsor, etc. This person is a stranger to everyone except family and friends – and maybe even to them. We can only speak of the queen as she appears in the minds of the people. And what has always struck me as profoundly odd about the idea of ​​Elizabeth II is the fact that she comes across, in our mental image of her, as distinctly lower middle class. It’s strange: all his children are recognizable aristocratic types; her grandchildren are very chic. Yet around the Queen hovers that lingering aura of Mrs. Windsor.

I think that’s what explains her relative popularity, compared to her clan – that Mrs. Windsor touch. Consider it: has a monarch ever seemed more likely to prefer a pretty floral curtain to a white wooden shutter? Or a stay (in front of the TV) at a glamorous Tuscan retreat or a break in the Caribbean? Has a resident of Buckingham Palace – replete as he surely is with bone china and silver serving dishes – ever had breakfast delivered to his table in an airtight plastic Tupperware alongside of a copy of race station? There is no precedent for such a monarch in our history books or fairy tales. Elizabeth II’s reign was not marked by grandeur and imperiousness – as was the case with the first Elizabeth – but by a quality of intense familiarity, a by-product of the unprecedented replication of her image. , as she is of course the most photographed Queen in history. Since childhood, I’ve watched reports of her sitting down to tea in her “subjects'” homes, apartments, and bungalows, or near their hospital beds, or suddenly appearing in the middle of their local tragedies or sporting events, and I have yet to see any citizen of the kingdom surprised to find his queen among them. Not that she can’t be queen, in her own way. But her imperiousness – such as it is – takes the petty-bourgeois form of “seeing with a dim eye”, which is also, I think, the root of her comedy (inadvertently?), for the dryness with which she tends to take his dark views are often funny. She took a dim view of Silvio Berlusconi bellowing at a G20 summit (“What’s going on? Supposed to be a happy event?”). She takes a dim view of the TV show Bargain hunting – finding it “a little vulgar”, preferring Antiques tour – and a low opinion of his own penchant for The law project (“I don’t like it but I can’t stop watching it”). His story of tacit disapproval goes back a long way, including things as varied as his sister’s famous friends, several humorless prime ministers, people who don’t like dogs or horses, crowds of people crying outside his house. , overly complicated meals and, of course, overworked daughters-in-law.

The things we are told she looks on with benevolence are also telling: esterscornflakes, most cakes, gin and Dubonnet (but no fine wines and nothing gourmet), TV quizzes and Question time (but only if there is a good bust-up), Benny Hill reruns and royal variety shows (as long as she doesn’t have to leave the comfort of her couch to watch one). For this queen, the category of literature is described – and fulfilled – by the complete works of PG Wodehouse. She likes to call a dog “Susan” and a horse “Peggy”. But at this point, you will protest. Dogs! And the horses! Aristocrats love dogs and horses. But instead of the queen of the hunt, bringing a fox out of the majestic secret cloak flying behind her, I’m pretty sure the queen you have in mind is the one that puts a five on the 3.15 at Goodwood, just like your own grandmother. And instead of greyhounds or borzois or even a cute King Charles spaniel, of all the dogs available in the empire, Elizabeth II opted for those stocky little corgis with their stubby legs, bushy tails and faceless faces. inspiration, which are the very doggy definition of “nothing to see here”. Put all this together and you will understand why, where the poets of the early Elizabethan age immortalized the majesty of their monarch, the writers of this one divined the queen’s suburban spirit and made it very levity. At Sue Townsend’s The queen and me, Elizabeth is forced to live as a commoner, but where the rest of her family are either depressed or enraged by their fall in status, the Queen soon realizes that this suits her better. At Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader she is encouraged – by a gay kitchen porter – to use a traveling library (her horrified courtiers find the habit “elitist”), and is soon swept away by the books, inspired and modified by them, in a spirit altogether runs contrary to the British aristocratic tradition, in which, as Bennett well knows, books are tolerated at best and, more generally, totally indifferent to them. (Nancy Mitford, one of the authors the Queen chooses from this imaginary library, crystallized the upper-class attitude towards literature in The pursuit of love“My dear Lady Kroesig, I have read only one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It’s so damn good that I never bothered to read another one. »