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The 94-year-old monarch "is much livelier in private than what the public sees," says biographer Sally Bedell Smith

By Simon Perry
January 27, 2021 08:00 AM
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2/8/2021 cover of people
Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Getty(2)

Queen Elizabeth is known for her stoic nature, but there is an unexpected side to the monarch.

The Queen "is much livelier in private than what the public sees," royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, tells PEOPLE in one of this week's cover stories.

The author quotes a source at the Queen's country estate in Norfolk, Sandringham, once saying, " 'You can hear her laugh throughout that big house.' She has a big laugh!"

The Queen, 94, can also be surprisingly self-deprecating. Not long after Prince Charles' 1981 wedding to Princess Diana, a rerun of the ceremony was playing on TV during a party in London that the monarch was attending. Spotting herself on the screen, "The Queen said, 'Oh, there's my Miss Piggy face,' " Bedell Smith recalls. "She has the ability to laugh at herself."

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

And while Queen Elizabeth's portraits are often serious and unemotional, she knows how to have some fun too. During a shoot celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen told photographer Barry Jeffrey to "just keep the camera rolling!" as she broke from the norm.

The Queen proceeded to strike a "series of poses, slipping her hands in and out of her pockets and placing them onto her hips, mimicking the stances of a professional model," recalled her dress maker and close confidante Angela Kelly.

They stood "in disbelief. The Queen was a natural," Kelly marveled. "Barry and I felt we were experiencing something really special: a moment never to be repeated."

When the Queen wants to relax, she turns to her beloved animals: her last living dorgi (a crossbred corgi and dachshund), Candy, and her stable of Fell ponies, a distinct English breed.

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"She goes into a peaceful mode when she is with horses," says her close friend and equine adviser Monty Roberts.