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How Queen Elizabeth II has kept calm and carried on through it all for 70 tumultuous years

How queen’s wellbeing impacts her duties
The impact of Queen Elizabeth’s wellbeing on her official duties 05:02

London — It seems that even queens are cut a little slack in their golden years. Queen Elizabeth II is not as steady on her feet as she used to be, and she has been more selective in which events she'll attend during this Platinum Jubilee period — and who she's seen with.


Sir Paul McCartney and best-selling author Tina Brown reflect on Queen Elizabeth's unprecedented reign in "Her Majesty The Queen: A Gayle King Special."

"Her Majesty the Queen: A Gayle King Special" 43:13

When a new train line in London, named after her, celebrated its grand opening in May, she was there with a big smile to mark the occasion. She likes trains.

When there was an extravagant horse show in her honor, next door to her palace, she showed up to wave and look pleased with the steeds on display. She likes horses.

But when a long ceremonial procession was required recently to open a new session of the British Parliament, she sent one of the kids to do it.

Queen Elizabeth misses opening of UK Parliament for first time in nearly 60 years 04:26

And, when another of her children so disgraced himself that he's been virtually written out of the royal story, it didn't stop her from having Prince Andrew — forever stained by his association with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein — escort her at the memorial service for her husband Prince Philip.

These days, the queen does what the queen wants to do.

"I think we're starting to see — and it's interesting, it's taken until her 10th decade — but I think we are starting to see her being a bit more like the rest of us, and saying, 'You know what, I think I'll do that, but I won't do that.'"

After a lifetime of duty, why not let Elizabeth be Elizabeth? It seems the least the British can do for the service she's provided.

The monarch, says author Robert Lacey, who has chronicled Britain's royals in more than 20 books, is "a crutch," and many in the kingdom simply "can't manage without it."

"In Britain, we try to divorce our patriotic feelings from the political process," said Lacey. "We have to think that's quite healthy, and we've fixed it on this lady who has risen to the occasion so well."  

But any career that lasts 70 years is bound to have hit a few bumps.

When part of her Windsor Castle home burned down in 1992, and three of her children's marriages collapsed, including Charles and Diana's, the queen dropped her usual stoicism and admitted it had been a horrible year.

When Diana died five years later, the queen badly misread the national mood and maintained her trademark stoicism, saying nothing as the nation went through collective grief. Finally, after five days of mounting public frustration and newspaper headlines questioning her absence, she acknowledged the public's mourning and paid tribute to Diana as "an exceptional and gifted human being."

More recently, faced with allegations of racism in the family aimed at Prince Harry's American wife Meghan Markle, the queen had to watch them leave for a chosen non-royal life in California.

And then, of course, there's the scandal over Prince Andrew. 

Prince Charles charity under investigation in same week Prince Andrew settles sexual abuse case 03:37

Somehow, though, she has kept calm and carried on through it all.

"She worked hard. She repaired what she'd done wrong," said Lacy, noting that just five years after Diana died, "in 2002, everybody's out in the streets again for the Golden Jubilee, cheering the queen."  

So, how did she do it?

"She did it by listening," Lacey said.

"She's had this integrity and understanding," he said. "She's believed in herself, and because she's believed in herself, because she's believed in her institution — the ridiculous business of wearing the crown on your head and people curtsy to you — but she's absolutely believed that that's an important part of Britain and its wider family around the world, the English-speaking world. And that's why she has more than survived."  

There's even a theory in some circles that Queen Elizabeth II may have served Britain's monarchy too well.

It's hard to argue that — especially for a son like Prince Charles, with all the baggage he brings — the queen is going to be an extremely hard act to follow.

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