HER Majesty was not just Head of the Armed Forces – she was their heart.
And while they fought for reina and Country, she fought for them.
But she was also there without the cameras and without the crowds.
As Commander in Chief, la reina regularly paid private visits to military units all over the country — bringing her children, and then her grandchildren, watching them “scrambling over vehicles and kit” as she chatted happily to servicemen and women and their own kids.
One recalled the atmosphere on these days as being like “a big family get-together”.
She was known to the military simply as “The Boss”.
“It was a term of endearment,” says former Scots Guard Major David Rankin-Hunt, a member of her personal staff for 33 años.
“The royal household, in which she spent her entire life, was run on military lines.
“She was surrounded by people who had served in the forces and she understood them and felt comfortable in their company.”
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And they felt just as comfortable in her company — to the point that they spoke to her in a way as nobody else dared.
“Soldiers would tell risque jokes or say things that somebody in the royal household wouldn’t dare say,” Major Rankin-Hunt explains.
“She loved all that. She loved soldier humour.”
Después de todo, they had dedicated their lives to duty and service, and so had she.
Elizabeth’s interest in the military was there right from the start. Her fascination was first recorded in 1929, just after her third birthday.
In one of her earliest letters, dictated to her nanny, ella dijo: “Darling Mummy. Do come here and see the soldiers and the band.”
Soon afterwards, the Princess was thrilled to discover she could make the sentries at El Palacio de Buckingham present arms just by walking in front of them. She proceeded to do so, again and again.
But the youngster’s imagination was also shaped by the military experience of her beloved father, the future George VI.
While his older brother, the future Edward VIII, was protected from frontline action in World War One because he was heir to the throne, the prince known as Bertie was, one historian explained “exposed to exactly the same risks as everybody else”.
En 1916, he was even mentioned in despatches while serving as a Navy midshipman for his actions during the greatest sea battle of the war, the Battle of Jutland.
When her father did become King after the abdication of his brother, Princess Elizabeth watched as the experience of those days at sea helped him win the love, trust and loyalty of forces serving in World War Two, and of the general public.
And the King was clearly aware of his daughter’s interest.
En 1942, as a 16th birthday gift, he appointed her Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards. She ended up amassing around 40 Colonel-In-Chief titles in the UK alone, along with ranks ranging from Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force Regiment to Lord High Admiral.
May the true reward of their courage be granted — a just and lasting peace.
But she was never satisfied with titles. From her teenage years, the Princess was desperate to be more actively involved, también.
She began campaigning to be allowed to sign up for the Auxiliary Territorial Service when she turned 17, but the King apposed it.
He believed that such service would remove part of her royal “mystique”.
But his daughter persisted and by 1945, just before she turned 19, the King gave in.
She was commissioned into the service as 2nd Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor — later promoted to Junior Commander, the equivalent of Captain — with the service number 230873.
She was stationed at a transport depot in Camberley, Surrey, where she felt instantly at home.
La reina later said that during those months before the war ended she “learned a little about driving and the workings of the combustion engine and much about the strength and happiness of comradeship.”
Por 1947, Elizabeth was so clearly most at home with military people that her grandmother Queen Mary moaned that she was “inclined to associate with young Guards officers to the exclusion of more representative strata of the community”.
Her marriage that year to her very own naval hero, Felipe, gave her even more access to this world she loved.
Entonces en 1951, Envejecido 25, she stood in for her ailing father at Trooping the Colour, taking the salute for the first time.
She would do so every year of her reign for the rest of her life apart from in 1955, when the event was cancelled because of a rail strike.
Después 11 soldiers and military bandsmen were killed by IRA blasts in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park in July 1982, she was heard weeping in her Palace bedroom. It was the first time staff had ever heard her cry.
She always took the event extremely serious.
“She used to be fanatical about getting into training,” recalls a former courtier.
“Two months beforehand she would start losing weight because she had to fit into the uniform.”
Como era de esperar, la reina encouraged her own children to take up military service.
And when the Falklands War broke out in 1982 and the Government made moves to shuffle Navy helicopter pilot Príncipe Andrés out of active service to keep him safe, la reina made a rare political move.
When the media asked what la reina thought, a firm statement was dispatched from the Palace reading: “Prince Andrew is a serving officer and there is no question in her mind that he should go.”
Another rare public flash of opinion came in 1994, when Scotland’s famous Black Watch battalion was under threat of being disbanded.
Su Majestad made it known she was “concerned” — and the battalion still fights on today.
As the land war got under way in Iraq in the first Gulf War, she wanted to tell her troops that she, and the nation, were “rightly proud” of them.
And she concluded: “May the true reward of their courage be granted — a just and lasting peace.”
She always felt for the Armed Forces not just as a sovereign, but as a human being.
En 2009 she established her own military award, the Elizabeth Cross.
Después 11 soldiers and military bandsmen were killed by IRA blasts en Hyde Park y Regent’s Park en julio 1982, she was heard weeping in her Palace bedroom. It was the first time staff had ever heard her cry.
And it was in recognition of such grief and sacrifice that, en 2009, she established her own military award, the Elizabeth Cross.
It is given to the next of kin of members of the Armed Forces who have been killed in action or as a result of terrorist attacks.
She always understood this human toll of loss, and the truth was her own father was in a way a victim of war, sacrificing his own health to help his country in World War Two.
Como resultado, the Queen’s support of the forces was never jingoistic.
But she was also unafraid to show her enjoyment of all things military, as seen in her infectious warmth at all those passing-out parades, notably when she inspected cadets at Sandhurst in 2006.
When she reached young graduate Principe Harry, the Queen grinned and declared: “Now this is a face I recognise.”
Throughout all these sorts of events, Su Majestad developed an unequalled eye for military decorations and details — in which she was always far more interested than in gowns and jewels.
En una ocasión, she asked a hapless Welsh Guards lieutenant at a dinner: “Do you have uniform requirements? Are red socks allowed?"
It turned out that earlier in the day she had spotted a Guards soldier in the offending colour rather than the regulation green.
One courtier said: “The Queen has an eagle eye, possibly better than 15 eagles.”
mientras tanto, Major Rankin-Hunt — who was also Honorary Colonel of the London Scottish Regiment — recalls the Queen knew regimental badges in such detail that she once spotted a design error even the College of Arms had failed to pick up. It was “egg on face all round," él dijo.
The Queen has an eagle eye, possibly better than 15 eagles.
And when the royal staffer was given the job of putting back a display of medals that had been rushed to safety from the fire at Windsor Castle en 1992, she pointed out “in a nice way” that he had mislabelled a commemorative medal from New Zealand.
The major added that Su Majestad would pay similar razor-sharp attention to the well-being of soldiers on parades.
“If a Household Cavalry trooper fell off his horse or was injured, the Queen was always very concerned," él dice. “There would be a phone call to the Cavalry: ‘Is the trooper all right?".
But for the current Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the explanation for this special bond between sovereign and Armed Forces could not have been more plain.
Speaking after su muerte, he said simply: “The relationship was both professional and personal. She was one of us.”