PROFILE: Elizabeth II: What is the British queen really like?
By Anna Tomforde Feb 1, 2012, 2:06 GMT
Britain\'s Queen Elizabeth II happily smiles to the crowd during the Great Aussie Barbecue in Perth, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. The Queen and Prince Phillip ended their 16th Royal Tour of Australia by joining tens of thousands of well wishers at the bbq event EPA/MURTY COLIN POOL
London - The closest most Britons will come to catching a private glimpse of the queen is perhaps on unofficial newspaper photographs showing the 85-year-old monarch astride a horse in a headscarf and brightly-coloured riding boots.
Readers may be informed that - just like Helen Mirren in the award-winning film The Queen - the monarch had taken to the wheel of her Range Rover to drive herself to the stables.
The enigma that surrounds Queen Elizabeth II is, partly, due to her being an intensely private person who balances her invariably well-rehearsed moments in the public eye with her private passions of horse breeding, riding and being with her Corgi and Labrador dogs.
Despite the glamour of her official role, her private frugality and hatred of waste are legendary, a trait royal observers have attributed to her personal experience of World War II and the austerity of the post-war years.
Her sense of duty was instilled in her from an early age by the example of her father, King George VI, to whom she was very close. It was his premature death on February 6, 1952, that brought the young Princess Elizabeth to the throne.
Although surrounded by traditions and customs, the queen has kept up with the latest trends, helped by her grandchildren, insiders report.
In the six decades of her rule, the queen has seen the advent of popular colour television, mobile phones and the internet.
When email technology was in its infancy, the queen became the first monarch to send an electronic message, in 1976.
She is now reported to have a BlackBerry, and a number of iPods. The royal family launched its own website in 1997, and the annual Christmas address can be viewed on YouTube, which also proved a hit during last year's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Between 2009 and 2010, the Queen strode into the social media sphere and allowed aides to create a Facebook page and Twitter account. More than half a million people subscribe to the royal household's Facebook page, while 300,000 follow the Twitter feed.
But the queen's ability to move with the times goes far beyond keeping up with the latest technology, according to a number of recently-published biographies to mark her jubilee.
In his book, the Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People, author and journalist Andrew Marr argues that, 'under her watchful eye, the monarchy has been thoroughly modernized and made as fit for purpose in the 21st century.'
Bowing and curtseying, says Marr, are now no more than signs of 'simple politeness' as the monarchy has responded to challenges to become a 'continually self-inventing institution.'
British historain Sarah Bradford, in her new book Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times, wrote: 'Our world has changed more in her lifetime than in any of her predecessors'. The queen has remained a calm presence at the centre, earning the respect of monarchists and republicans.'
A new biography by US author Sally Bedell Smith, Elizabeth the Queen, has won praise for 'bringing to life one of the world's most fascinating and enigmatic women.'
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