The Queen has received many accolades over her 95 years, but one she is refusing to accept is the Oldie of the Year award, believing she does not meet the criteria and explaining that “you are as old as you feel”.
She “politely but firmly” declined the award, which is given annually to celebrate the achievements of members of the older generations who have made a special contribution to public life, although she sent organisers her “warmest best wishes”.
With the Queen’s platinum jubilee to be celebrated next year, the author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, who is the chairman of the awards, believed she more than qualified for the title, writing to her office to inquire whether she would accept it.
However, in a letter published in the November issue of the Oldie magazine, her assistant private secretary, Tom Laing-Baker, wrote: “Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such the Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient.”
The Queen was due on Tuesday to host a reception at Windsor Castle for international business and investment leaders to mark the Global Investment Summit.
The main Oldie of the Year award went, in the end, to the French-American actor and dancer Leslie Caron, who at 90 is five years younger than the Queen. The former England footballer Sir Geoff Hurst, 79, won the Oldie Golden Boot of the Year, while the cook and TV presenter Delia Smith, 80, was honoured with the Truly Scrumptious Oldie award.
Addressing the awards lunch at the Savoy hotel in London on Tuesday, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall said they “recognise the achievements of a range of remarkable older people who have made a special contribution to the world, and who all – in the words of your founding editor, Richard Ingrams – ‘still have snap in their celery’”.
Previous winners since the inception of the awards 29 years ago have included Nobel laureates, community care nurses and veteran athletes, as well as Sir John Major, Dame Olivia de Havilland and David Hockney.
Brandreth described the letter he received in response from Balmoral Castle as “lovely”, writing: “Perhaps in the future we will sound out Her Majesty once more.”
The late Duke of Edinburgh was named Oldie of the Year in 2011 to mark his 90th birthday. Prince Philip wrote a letter of appreciation, joking: “There is nothing like it for morale to be reminded that the years are passing – ever more quickly – and that bits are beginning to drop off the ancient frame.”