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Charles learned Queen died while ‘driving back to Balmoral from picking mushrooms’

New biography says the King had tried to inform Prince Harry but he was already in the air

Holly Evans
Saturday 13 January 2024 00:51 GMT
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Queen Elizabeth III worried dying at Balmoral would make organising her funeral 'difficult', reveals Princess Anne

The King was informed of his mother’s death at the wheel of his car after leaving her side in Balmoral to pick mushrooms, a new book has revealed.

Charles pulled over while his most senior aide took the call, before he was addressed as “Your Majesty” for the first time.

At the time, he was returning to the royal family’s Scottish residence after foraging for mushrooms in a bid to “clear his head”, after spending a final hour at the late Queen’s bedside.

King Charles III was first addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ by his private aide (PA Wire)

Details of Elizabeth II’s final moments have been revealed for the first time in a new biography of the King by royal author Robert Hardman.

In a memo written by her private secretary, her death is recorded as “very peaceful”, who said that she “wouldn’t have been aware of anything”.

King Charles was returning from picking mushrooms when he was informed of the Queen’s death. (PA)

The note was written by Sir Edward Young on 8 September 2022 and has been published by the Daily Mail.

The document, which is now in the Royal Archives, forms part of a new biography of the King – Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story and reveals that the King and Queen Camilla had spent time with the late monarch privately before she died.

Her children and grandchildren had rushed to Balmoral to say their goodbyes (PA)

Princess Anne and the late Queen’s senior dresser, Angela Kelly, alternated at her bedside, along with Rev Kenneth MacKenzie, a minister at nearby Crathie Kirk.

The biography adds that Charles had called both of his sons and told them to travel up to Scotland as soon as possible to say their goodbyes.

While the Queen had suffered “episodic mobility problems” in the months before her death, her eldest son had been caught unaware by her sudden deterioration and had travelled to Balmoral by helicopter while reading his “London Bridge” notes on the journey.

“London Bridge” was the code word for the logistical plans in place for the Queen’s death, which included the order of people to be informed in the immediate aftermath.

Then, when Charles called William via the palace switchboard to break the news, he told the operator “it’s me” as he realised he could not reveal to staff that he was king yet, before informing his heir.

Prince Harry pictured arriving at Balmoral after the Queen’s death (AP)

The King did try to contact his younger son to tell him personally, but Harry was already in the air and he could not get through, the book reveals. The Duke of Sussex discovered that his grandmother had died through a breaking news alert upon arriving by plane.

Hardman also claims that the Prince of Wales had failed to respond to text messages from his younger brother which asked how he was travelling to Balmoral.

Neither the Princess of Wales nor the Duchess of Sussex travelled with their husbands, while the Duke of York and the Duke of Edinburgh made the journey to Scotland.

The biography also discloses how the late Queen worked her way through her final red box diligently, even as she was confined to her bedroom, leaving a sealed letter for her son and a second for Sir Edward.

The box contained her choice of candidates for the Order of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious service” across the Commonwealth.

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