Queen tells Edward Heath he is ‘expendable’ in 1991
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In his new book, Gyles Brandreth covers a whole spectrum of the late Monarch’s life, from the painful cancer she battled during the last year of her life to heartwarming insights about her personality. The 74-year-old has brought together several anecdotes which paint a picture of Queen Elizabeth II’s famous sense of humour – including the fact that she enjoyed teasing the former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath.
In his biography, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait, which has been serialised by the Mail+, Mr Brandreth told how the Queen continued her teasing of the late politician, who died in 2005, long after his premiership ended.
Her Majesty had been talking with Mr Heath and George HW Bush at a G7 summit in July 1991 when she made a hilarious remark aimed at the Tory.
They were discussing the situation in Iraq and Saddam Hussein before the Gulf War, and Mr Bush relayed a conversation he had had Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
Mr Heath chimed in noting that Mr Bush had not spoken to him face to face to which the Queen said: “But he couldn’t! He couldn’t go to Baghdad like you could.”
Mr Heath then questioned: “Why not, ma’am? I went to Baghdad.”
To this the Queen chuckled and replied: “I know you did, but you’re expendable now. You’re expendable. He couldn’t go to Baghdad at that moment.”
Mr Heath then duly responded: “Yes, I’m expendable, that’s true.”
It is likely that the Queen was commenting on the fact that Mr Heath was no longer in frontline politics, having served as Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974.
Mr Brandreth stressed that there was no malice behind the Queen’s words as he wrote: “Some commentators interpreted the remark as a deliberate put-down. She was simply being playful.”
The TV personality, who was friends with the Duke of Edinburgh for four decades, also mentioned the time the Queen teased Mr Heath when they were on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The vessel served as a royal residence for receptions, honeymoons, and holidays for more than 44 years before it was decommissioned in 1994 under Sir John Major’s Government as the repairs were deemed to be too great.
Mr Brandreth wrote: “As he came aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Sovereign greeted Heath, mimicking a conductor, with the words, ‘Are you still waving your stick about?’”
Although the Queen made “playful” comments towards the former Father of the House after he was Prime Minister, their relationship had not always been smooth sailing.
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During Mr Heath’s time in office, he reportedly struggled with audiences. It is thought the pair had differing views over the Commonwealth and so Mr Heath had difficulty with small talk and described their weekly private meetings as “frosty”.
In 2012, Sir John revealed that Mr Heath had actually fallen asleep while in the Queen’s presence during a private dinner held at Downing Street.
When he alerted the Monarch of this, the late Queen – who saw 15 Prime Ministers during her 70-year-long reign – reacted calmly, deciding that they would not wake the then-elderly Mr Heath.
In an interview with the Telegraph, he recalled: “There was an occasion where I gave a private dinner for the Queen at Number 10 and all past Prime Ministers attended and Ted Heath, who was then very elderly. I was sitting on one side of the Queen and Ted was sitting on the other, and he fell asleep.
“I leaned across and said to the Queen: ‘Ted has fallen asleep.’ ‘I know he has,’ she said, ‘but don’t worry, he’ll wake up a little later and we’ll say nothing about it,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”
Gyles Brandreth’s biography, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait, will be published by Michael Joseph on December 8.
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