August 31, 2015 10:30 AM

Queen Elizabeth II has been a remarkably steadfast leader throughout her record-breaking 63-year reign. But the gold standard for stiff upper lips also possesses a surprising soft side.

“She’s a warm human being, and it comes through when you meet her,” her friend, former President George H.W. Bush, says in a new PBS special on the 89-year-old monarch, the first in a new documentary series, In Their Own Words.

In the film, which airs at 9 p.m. ET on September 1, some of those closest to her share their insights into the private woman beneath the crown.

“Over and over, those who have spent time with her talk about how she’s funny, she’s animated, she has this incredible theatrical part to her,” the series’ executive producer, Chuck Dalaklis, tells PEOPLE.

Queen Elizabeth II
Royal Collection Trust/ William Hustler and Georgina Hustler/ National Portrait Gallery, London

Former First Lady Barbara Bush notes in the documentary that many people might not realize that the woman who is set to surpass Queen Victoria as England’s longest-reigning monarch possesses a formidable intellect.

“She is up-to-date with the events of each country,” says Dalaklis. “If you’re meeting with her, you’d better go in prepared – because she is. She is still incredibly plugged in.”

She also has “an incredible sense of pride” in her eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, says Dalaklis. At the 2011 wedding of her grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton, a friend recalls in the documentary that Elizabeth looked out at the thousands gathered and remarked, “The world’s gone mad.”

“My takeaway from that was, ‘Look at how this couple is evolving the monarchy,’ ” says Dalaklis. “There’s a pride there. The Queen feels like the monarchy is in good hands.”

Future episodes of In Their Own Words feature profiles of Muhammad Ali and Jim Henson.

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