The Queen Mother was ‘really camp, liked to put on a show’

Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, the Queen Mother — who never tired of a floral dress or extravagant hat — was “really camp,” says a royal historian.

“There was a very performative and delicious element to the Queen Mother,” Gareth Russell, author of “Do Let’s Have Another Drink!: The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother,” told Page Six in a recent interview.

“She liked to put on a show,” he explained. “And there was an almost wink, wink, nudge-nudge campness to the way she lived her life.”

The Queen Mother — who was married to King George VI died in March 2002 at the age of 101 — was consistently one of the most popular members of the royal family. The public was charmed by her beatific smile and seemingly endless good cheer.

Queen Mother Drinking Pint

The Queen Mother was someone who “could handle her drinking really well.”

PA Images via Getty Images

Queen Mother Pulls Pint

The Queen Mother was someone who “could handle her drinking really well.”

PA Images via Getty Images

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She was also, according to Russell, quite the tippler who liked to drink … a lot.

“I think she was probably just somebody who could handle her drinking really well,” he explained. “What’s interesting is, there are very few stories of her being unsteady on her feet or even slurring her words, whereas other people around her were decimated by trying to keep pace.”

A typical day — if there were no royal engagements — meant at least three different drinks. A cocktail before lunch, a drink at lunch, and of course, something during dinner.

The Queen Mother.
The Queen Mother died in 2002 at the age of 101.
Getty Images

The drinks were often poured by her loyal steward, William Tallon, better known by the nickname Backstairs Billy.

Tallon worked for the royal from 1960 until her death in 2002. He was also openly gay, whose on-and-off partner of over 30 years was Buckingham Palace footman, Reginald Wilcock.

Russell recounts the now legendary tale of the Queen Mother hearing Tallon and Wilcox quarrel, sidling over, and asking, “Would one of you old queens mind getting this old queen a drink?”

Book jacket of "Do Let's Have Another Drink!"
The Queen Mother would drink three times a day if she didn’t have a royal engagement.

“She had a really kind of wicked sense of humor,” the author said. “She loved it when Billy did these quite camp impressions of people and she defended a lot of gay people at the time.”

And as Russell notes this was at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain.

The Queen Mother adored her oldest grandson — King Charles — and was a caring and warm presence for him growing up. However, Russell doesn’t think that she would have approved of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping away from royal duties.

“She said at Prince Harry’s christening that hoped the main lesson, that both he and his brother would learn is to put the country first,” Russell said. “So it’s generationally something she just absolutely could not understand.”


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