Her reign was determined by discretion. The late queen always kept her own counsel and rarely let any hint of her own feelings get out in the public domain.
Yet she also kept a handwritten diary, part of a treasure trove of documents at Windsor Castle that, if ever made public, could provide a compelling insight into a woman who spent seven decades at the forefront of world events. What secrets might it contain?
Soon, some of these incredible documents could be released to the national archives, while others deemed too sensitive or too personal will remain confidential, under the close scrutiny of the king.
Choosing which papers are private is a task that requires the utmost discretion, given that they may contain the deepest thoughts of the late Queen.
That’s why the king entrusted the task not to a team of expert historians, but to a retired lackey known in the palace corridors as ‘Tall Paul’.
That is why the king has entrusted the task not to a team of expert historians, but to a retired footman known in the palace corridors as ‘Tall Paul’ (right)
Paul Whybrew, who stands at six feet tall, served the Queen for 44 years and was one of the few loyal staff who kept her company in her final days at Balmoral.
In 1982, he arrested Michael Fagan who had broken into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace, wrestled the intruder to the floor and escorted him out of the building.
But to the public, Mr Whybrew will be best recognized for his role in the James Bond sketch for the 2012 London Olympics.
The softly spoken Page was seen introducing Daniel Craig to Buckingham Palace with the words: ‘Mr Bond, Your Majesty’ as the Queen sat at her desk writing a letter.
Now Mr. Whybrew, who is in his early sixties, is responsible for all the notes on that desk and much more.
Wearing gloves to protect the paper, he spends two days a week in his retirement sifting through the priceless documents.
Paul Whybrew (left), who stands at six feet tall, served the Queen for 44 years and was one of the few loyal staff who kept her company during her final days at Balmoral
The late Queen confirmed she kept a handwritten diary, but said it was much more superficial than the diaries kept by Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother.
Nevertheless, the content could provide a compelling account of both world politics – such as her encounters with Winston Churchill on Idi Amin and Donald Trump – and intimate family life.
A source said: “For this task, King Charles needed someone he could trust, someone he was sure would never say a word about whatever he encountered.
“Long Paul is the man of legacy – the keeper of the Queen’s secrets. There is no one else to whom the king would have entrusted such a great job. This is the ultimate reward for his loyalty.”
The contents of the archive have remained a mystery until now, but it is likely to contain extraordinary information regarding the Queen’s meeting with Princess Diana to discuss her divorce from Charles; the talks with Prince Harry about Megxit; and her thoughts on her 15 Prime Ministers.
The documents fall into three categories. First, some will be made public, especially if there is a constitutional or governmental element to them.
Now Mr. Whybrew (back left, as a younger man), who is in his early sixties, is responsible for all the notes on that desk and much more
Second, some will be considered private by the king and kept in his own files.
Finally, some will fall somewhere in between and will be held in the private archives of the Windsor Castle library and only shown to a handful of academics upon request.
The documents most likely to see the light of day are those of which the government retains copies. These fall under the 20-year rule, which was reduced from 30 years in 2013.
Under the Public Records Act 1958, it is the responsibility of government departments to review and select records to be transferred to the National Archives in Kew, West London, or other approved location.
Unlike the Windsor Archives, records at Kew are open to the public and already contain details of royal events, including the 1997 death of Princess Diana and the abdication of King Edward VIII.
However, the Queen’s personal diaries will be a problem for the King and his family. They could be released as part of an exhibition, the details of which would be agreed with the cabinet.
It is the responsibility of government departments to review and select documents to be transferred to the National Archives in Kew, West London (pictured)
If so, they would be held by the Royal Collection Trust which manages the royal exhibit material.
The late Queen once told broadcaster and avid diarist Michael Palin that she wrote her diaries for about 15 minutes a night before getting too tired.
And in a documentary she told the then Bishop of Chelmsford: ‘I keep a diary, but not like Queen Victoria’s. It’s quite small.’
“But you write it with your own hand?” asked the cleric. “Oh yes,” the Monarch replied. “Well, I can’t write it any other way!”
Queen Victoria was said to write 2,500 words a day in letters and diaries stretching to 122 volumes, but her daughter Beatrice destroyed sections she felt were too candid or personal. But there are many more to read today on the website of the Royal Collection Trust.
In addition to handwritten diaries, Elizabeth II’s archives contain bundles of letters—both written and received—that touch on almost every subject imaginable and contain early correspondence between her and Prince Philip.
Many months from now, when Mr Whybrew’s job is done, a catalog of the documents will be presented to the King, who will make the final decisions as to what should be made public.
Sorting the clothes of the deceased queen becomes another big task. Many outfits are stored in Windsor Castle, but there are many wardrobes in her private rooms that need to be cleared.
Items such as underwear will most likely be destroyed, while outfits and hats will be ordered and categorized to be displayed at future exhibitions.
Likewise, the jewelry, including Elizabeth’s favorite Queen Mary tiara, will be captured in detail.
Some pieces have been bequeathed to members of the family, others will be cataloged and put away as part of the Monarch’s collection.
In return for his work, Mr Whybrew has been given lifelong leave to stay in a modest lodge cottage on the Windsor Castle estate.
One source reports that the aide was “very pleasantly surprised” to receive what has been described as “a very good reward by palace standards” following the Queen’s death.
This is in stark contrast to Angela Kelly, the late Queen’s dresser, who may have been the obvious choice to search the Queen’s wardrobe.
But she is installed in a gracious home in northern England, hundreds of miles from Windsor.
A source said it would “never be Angela” who would be entrusted to handle the late Queen’s affairs.
Mr Whybrew proved his loyalty as the Queen’s health deteriorated. While some of the courtiers became inconsolable, it fell to ‘Tall Paul’ to keep his upper lip stiff and corral the staff to do the same.
A well-placed source said: “At one point, Paul had to scare others away in case Princess Anne saw them making a fuss.”
The Queen, too, gave Mr Whybrew special duties when it became clear her health was deteriorating, with an insider saying he was tasked with contacting former aides before she died.
Among them would be Paul Burrell, the ‘other Paul’ who started working for Her Majesty around the same time as Mr Whybrew, but was a completely different character.
It is not known what message the late Queen wanted to convey to Burrell, but some say she was seeking order in her affairs.
Palace insiders say Mr Whybrew’s presence in Windsor is particularly comforting to the King, who lost his long-serving aide Michael Fawcett when he was forced to resign from The Prince’s Foundation over a cash-for-honours scandal.
The King’s top team is set to change soon too, with rumors that his private secretary, Clive Alderton, may be returning to the Foreign Office.
A source said the king also plans to hire two people of color to strengthen his senior team as he tries to promote more diversity within the palace.
As the new regime continues to unfold, lessons are learned from the past. There will be no repeat of the tawdry traveling exhibition of several of Diana’s personal effects after her death, with her wedding dress on display at a posh casino complex in Connecticut and in Las Vegas.
Perhaps chastened by the mawkish way wealthy collectors pounced on his first wife’s belongings, Charles would like to see to it that his late mother’s memory is properly celebrated and protected.
While an exhibition is planned to celebrate his parents’ life, a source has said there is no rush to get statues made.
With his mother’s belongings being safely handled by Long Paul, the king would be sure that the palace can preserve her legacy while protecting her secrets.
A former aide said, “Paul is so discreet that he takes the Queen’s secrets to the grave.”