Queen Elizabeth Has Only Allowed One Person to Read Her "Secret" Diary

Here's who Her Majesty trusts with her deepest, darkest secrets.

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If anyone's life is worth recording, it's Queen Elizabeth's. As Britain's longest reigning monarch, she has had weekly meetings with every prime minister from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson and presided over a family whose weddings, divorces, scandals, and tragedies rival anything you'd see on a soap opera. According to a Palace insider, the Queen ends each day recording her thoughts and feelings in her "secret" diary, no matter the hour or where she is—and only person has ever been permitted to read Her Majesty's musings: Prince Philip.

"The Queen has always maintained an air of inscrutability in public, but there is little doubt she must have strong opinions on the events—both the personal and public—she has witnessed," said my source. "From the death of [Princess] Diana to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's dramatic exit from royal life, Her Majesty's deepest thoughts on these seismic events are known only to her and, perhaps, the Duke of Edinburgh. Her written record of her life would surely make for fascinating reading."

The Queen reportedly sits down at her desk before bed every night to document her day and asks only to be disturbed if "there's something of world-shattering importance," said a royal source.

As one might expect, Her Majesty's diaries are carefully guarded. They are kept in a black leather case that resembles a smaller version of the famous red boxes containing government papers that are delivered to her daily. There are only two keys—one for her and one for her private secretary in case of emergency. A royal insider told The Sun one of Her Majesty's personal page's first tasks in the morning is to dispose of the paper scraps and blotting papers so that the reverse impressions of what has been written can't be read.

To ensure additional privacy, each diary is marked only with the Queen's cypher (EIIR) and numbered with a Roman numeral without any dates, so only Her Majesty knows the year each book chronicles.

The Queen's diaries have never gone missing and are considered to be nearly as valuable to her as the Crown Jewels. She takes them with her wherever she goes, including family retreats to Windsor Castle, Sandringham, and Balmoral.

Queen Elizabeth II preparing for her silver jubilee tours, 1977, sitting at desk in front of photos and diary
Keystone Archives/Heritage Images / The Print Collector / Alamy Stock Photo

The Queen's love of journaling came to light last year when Monty Python actor Michael Palin, then newly knighted, was invited to Windsor Castle and seated next to Her Majesty for dinner. He told Express, "We were talking about diaries after I had mentioned that I kept a nightly journal of where I'd been and the people I encountered. She said she did too, the difference being that while mine may have been for publication, hers were definitely not."

The actor also revealed, "She commented that she found it quite difficult because it always made her a bit woolly and said, 'I usually manage to write for about 15 minutes before my head goes bump,' and then she did an imitation of her head hitting the table, as if she had fallen asleep."

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Keeping a diary is a longstanding tradition within the British monarchy. The Queen began keeping a diary when she was just 15 years old after learning her father, King George VI, did so. Her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was also a prolific diary writer. Victoria allowed excerpts from her private diary to be published after her death in 1901, instructing her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, to edit her journals and remove anything that would cause "pain to persons mentioned or to our dear relatives" before the selected entries were printed.

It took Beatrice 30 years to complete her handwritten transcriptions, but after she was through, she burned the original diaries in 1931. In 2012, the complete collection of 141 volumes of Queen Victoria's private diaries were digitized and made available online from the royal archives.

The decision as to whether the world will ever get to read Queen Elizabeth's diaries rests with her. Her Majesty did release the Queen Mother's private diaries and letters in 2o12. Besides being an important first-person account of British history, the Queen's journals will ultimately become the definitive retelling of the life of one of the most fascinating women of the modern age. But only time will tell just how much royal tea the Queen spills.

Besides, royal biographer Hugo Vickers thinks Her Majesty likely keeps the dishiest anecdotes out of her diary, telling Express, "She has a lifetime of training in not saying things." And for more on the queen, check out The One Thing Queen Elizabeth Never Leaves Home Without.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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