The Queen’s playful sense of humour and excellent comic timing

Being head of state was a serious business, but the Queen had a lighter side and a playful sense of humour.

She was a talented mimic, as was her mother and, in private, was known to turn her skill on the rich and famous.

The Queen and grandson Prince Harry
The Queen makes grandson Prince Harry laugh during the Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Surrey (James Vellacott/PA)

Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic’s president, once praised her for combining the “dignity of the throne” with “an open, honest attitude, an ability to take things as they are, and a sense of humour”.

Royal biographer Ben Pimlott observed that the Queen was witty with good comic timing.

On duty she sometimes found it hard to keep a straight face when ceremonial turned to near-comedy.

But her professionalism overcame the urge to giggle.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh bid farewell to Irish president Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at Windsor Castle (Leon Neal/PA)

As a teenager she showed a talent for amateur theatricals and took part in a run of wartime Christmas pantomimes at Windsor in which the humour mainly depended on puns.

In Aladdin in 1943 she appeared, dressed in a sackcloth apron, as a charlady and greatly amused the audience, which included the King and Queen.

The following year she took the role of a Victorian seaside belle.

Later in life, the Queen became hooked by Big Mouth Billy Bass, a battery-operated singing fish.

Not to be outdone by a million of her subjects, who each owned one of the £25 wall-mounted fishes, the Queen kept Billy Bass on her highly polished piano at Balmoral.

John Prescott with Molly Hammond and a Billy Bass singing fish
Then-deputy prime minister John Prescott is shown Molly Hammond’s Billy Bass singing fish as he visits the pensioner’s flat in west London. The Queen was also a fan of the amusing fish (John Stillwell/PA)

As the mounted rubber fish moved its mouth and flapped its tail, the Queen sang along with Don’t Worry Be Happy and Take Me To The River.

She also took delivery of Rocky Lobster, a crooning crustacean, which added Do Wah Diddy Diddy and Rock The Boat to the royal repertoire.

Balmoral, in the Scottish Highlands, was the Queen’s favourite refuge where, according to friends, she behaved quite differently – “rushing around in tatty clothes, laughing, joking, joining in, singing dirty songs”.

The Queen and the Prince of Wales
The Queen and her son, the Prince of Wales, enjoying the Braemar Highland Games in Aberdeenshire (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The nation saw a very different side to the Queen in 2012 when she made a show-stealing cameo appearance in Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony for the London Olympics.

James Bond, played by 007 actor Daniel Craig, called on the palace, where the monarch, who was sitting at her writing desk, made him wait before greeting him with the words “Good evening, Mr Bond.”

They walked together, corgis beside them, towards a helicopter and set off, flying over London to the Olympic stadium.

The scene concluded with a stunt double of the Queen parachuting into the arena.

Seconds later the real Queen, wearing the same peach dress as the stunt double, entered the stadium to rapturous applause.

The London 2012 opening ceremony
The Queen after arriving at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Taking part in the spoof as a Bond girl earned the Queen a whole new level of kudos and a new generation of fans.

In a BBC documentary in 2018 examining her coronation, the sovereign amused viewers with her dry wit.

Told that precious gems from the Crown Jewels were hidden in a biscuit tin during the Second World War by a courtier, the unimpressed monarch quipped: “Hmm, did he remember where he put them? He might have died in the middle.”

She manhandled the heavy, priceless Imperial State Crown, pulling it towards her, turning it round and declaring: “This is what I do when I wear it.”

She chuckled when describing how you could not look down with it on because “your neck would break or it would fall off”.

Her interaction with another celebrity of sorts delighted millions when she appeared in a surprise comic sketch with Paddington Bear, as part of the celebrations earlier this year honouring her 70-year reign.

Platinum Jubilee
The Queen showing her marmalade sandwich to Paddington Bear in a Jubilee sketch (PA)

The monarch and the bear met for a chaotic cream tea at Buckingham Palace in a special, secretly pre-recorded sequence played at the start of the televised BBC Platinum Party at the Palace event.

The duffle-coat wearing bear from Michael Bond’s books told the Queen how he made sure he always had his favourite treat on him, just in case, lifting up his red hat to reveal a marmalade sandwich.

The Queen delighted him in turn by saying she shared his love of the snack, as she opened her handbag to reveal a stash.