In a lifetime of devoted service to the nation, the Queen has attended tens of thousands of hugely emotional events, and her remarkable stoicism in the face of high passion has often been remarked on.
Sometimes, Her Majesty’s insistence on maintaining a dignified front at even the most strained of moments—such as the death of Princess Diana—has been incorrectly interpreted as revealing a certain coldness in her character.
Those who know her well speak of a warm and emotionally connected woman.
In public, however, she simply believes it is important to comport herself with a stately bearing at all times—and this generally means no public displays of emotion. She doesn’t really even do smiles, because then if she didn’t smile at her next engagement what would people think?
Today, however, for an instant, the regal façade of duty and reserve cracked. At the unveiling of a memorial to soldiers killed in service, a single tear was distinctly observed to roll down the royal cheek, before being hastily brushed away by a gloved finger.
The rare display of royal emotion came as the monarch joined wounded veterans and serving personnel from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for a moving ceremony in the spring sunshine at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The names of 32 men from the regiment who have died since its formation 10 years ago are inscribed on the monument.
The Telegraph reports that the tear was observed to make its way down her cheek just after the Queen had laid a wreath bearing the message: “In memory of the glorious dead. Elizabeth R.”
There has long been a popular myth that the Queen has only ever shed tears in public once (before today)—when, in 1997, she said farewell to the royal yacht, Britannia, after the newly elected Labour government refused to sanction paying for a replacement.
She did cry visibly on that occasion, and that has been unfairly used to paint her as someone who cared more about a boat than she does about her family because she failed to emote adequately at the funerals of family members, including that of her mother and her sister Margaret.
In fact, she has, despite her best efforts to maintain a stiff upper lip, wept in public several times during her reign, mostly at war memorial services.
As a young woman growing up during the Second World War, Elizabeth is known to take profoundly seriously her responsibilities as titular head of the armed forces.
Maybe, as she enters her 91st year, the Queen is allowing more of her personality to come through in public.