The 5pm ritual our fighting fit 94-year-old Queen lives by

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
The Queen having tea with a family in Glasgow in 1999. (PA)
The Queen having tea with a family in Glasgow in 1999. (PA)

The Queen is to mark 69 years on the throne on 6 February 2021, having seen decades of change and then a year that has kept her citizens indoors.

The last year of her reign has been unlike any other - her usual walkabouts and in-person engagements replaced by video calls, and more broadcast messages to her beloved Commonwealth.

Remaining visible has been an important part to the Queen’s year, as she adapts from the habits which have marked the rest of her time on the throne.

Throughout her near seven decades of service to the country, the Queen has managed to avoid the pitfalls of some of her predecessors and remained fighting fit for most of her reign.

A royal author has suggested the Queen’s secret, keeping her on her feet at engagements and on tours could be stopping for tea everyday.

Bryan Kozlowski has researched the Queen’s habits over the years and explored whether the practice of sitting down to afternoon tea every day could be helping her live a longer life.

In his book, Long Live the Queen, he cites how scientific research shows constant denial when it comes to diet ends in a strong craving for the forbidden fruit.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London. The Queen was opening the  352 million refurbishment of the MoD's main building in London
Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London - taking tea. (PA)

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He writes: “Any diet based on denying yourself that ‘tiny piece’ has never worked. It never worked for royalty either. Queen Victoria spent her childhood in a near-constant state of gustatory denial.”

So what does the Queen do differently? Well, Kozlowski explains maintaining the 5pm teatime whatever may be means she can exercise willpower the rest of the time, and get through the day’s engagements.

“Elizabeth does have a seemingly inexhaustible spring of self-control to tap into, but only because she takes the time to replenish it.

“Her daily teatime habit is that crucial interval for recharging her willpower batteries, when her muscles of self-discipline relax and her personal weaknesses are indulged,” he writes.

“However quaint it might sound, part of the secret to her unflappable personality is that she takes time for tea.”

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Even when she does have tea, the amount she eats is minimal. It’s said that most of the scones that get sent up to her for afternoon tea are actually gobbled up by the corgis.

“The Queen is such a disciplinarian,” says chef Darren McGrady in the book.

“It amazed me that we would send a great big chocolate cake up... at afternoon tea, and she would just take the tiniest slice.”

The cake is nibbled down gradually, a little every day, “until there is only one tiny piece [left],” adds McGrady. “But you have to send that up. She wants to finish the whole of that cake!”

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William meet the England Rugby coach Clive Woodward's wife, Jayne Woodward, at Buckingham Palace, London. Earlier the squad had paraded the William Ellis trophy through the West End in a procession of open-topped buses.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William meet the England Rugby coach Clive Woodward's wife, Jayne Woodward, at Buckingham Palace. (PA)

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The Queen regularly hosts afternoon tea events at the palace, most famously, the annual garden parties at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh.

The parties are an opportunity for the Royal Family to thank people for their public service, perhaps through their charitable work, or local or national government service.

It’s estimated something like 27,000 cups of tea are served, along with 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are served at each party.

The events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but are scheduled to return in 2022 and those who were invited in 2020 will be able to attend then.

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