NEW YORK // Queen Elizabeth II's friends dare not ask her about her personal feelings because of the wall of privacy around her, according to a US journalist given access to the British monarch's entourage for a biography.
Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith is already a hit on both sides of the Atlantic as Britain starts commemorations for the monarch's diamond jubilee.
Ms Bedell Smith, a writer for Vanity Fair, has produced biographies of Princess Diana, John and Jacqueline Kennedy, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The author was given tacit approval by Buckingham Palace for her latest project and spoke to advisers, courtiers and relatives of the woman she calls "the most public and the most private person in the world". In the book, Ms Bedell Smith tells of the queen's fears over the divorce between her son Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and many other dramas in her reign.
Speaking in New York, the American author and historian said the queen has devoted friends but because she lives "in her own little bubble and own little world" it is "a different kind of friendship".
"She tries to be amusing and she gives them very good advice although they are very careful about not being presumptuous and calling upon her for that," Bedell Smith said.
"She is very interested in their families and what is going on. But there is a kind of a scrim in front of her," said Ms Bedell Smith.
"They dare not really ask her about her personal feelings and personal life. She keeps a lot of that to herself. One of her cousins told me that when she gets frustrated - there is a weed in Scotland called the sticky willy - she goes out into the fields and pulls it up."
Queen Elizabeth ascended to the British throne on February 6, 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. Mass national commemorations are to be held from June 2 to 5 across Britain.
The biography reveals some of the queen's fears after the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1996.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said in the book that Elizabeth was worried that her eldest son would give up his place in the line of succession for Camilla, just as King Edward VIII gave up the throne in 1936 to marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson.
The book states there were "strains" in the queen's own marriage to Prince Philip after she refused to take his family name, Mountbatten, after their 1947 wedding and Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne.
Her family and the government had insisted on keeping the Windsor name.