Boris Johnson Pens Sweet Tribute To Queen Elizabeth Ahead Of The First Anniversary Of Her Death

September 8, 2023, marks the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who died at 96 at Balmoral Castle during her 70th year as the British monarch. In her seven decades of service, she saw a wide swath of political, cultural, and social change, and she served as a constant figurehead through it all. The late Queen also saw the arrival and departure of 15 Prime Ministers, the penultimate of whom was Boris Johnson, who penned a touching tribute to the Queen ahead of the 1-year anniversary of her passing.

Johnson was appointed Prime Minister in 2019 — a term that began amid Brexit and ended on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. He delivered his final resignation speech in June 2022, just a few months before the Queen's death. Johnson's letter, published in the Daily Mail on September 1, touches on the last political transition the Queen oversaw before her death. But he hardly dwells on the political. Instead, he offers a heartfelt insight into the former monarch, revealing a woman who was patient, empathetic, and, in her more lighthearted moments, a bit cheeky.

Johnson emphasized the Queen's enduring sense of duty

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson recounted his last meeting with the late Queen Elizabeth II, which he said took place only days before she died. The meeting marked the end of Johnson's term as PM, after which former Prime Minister Liz Truss would take his place for her historic blink-and-you'll-miss-it tenure. The Queen oversaw this transition during her final days because, Johnson said, "She was determined to do her last job as monarch [and] she believed that by willpower and energy, we can shape our ends and transform our fortunes." 

Johnson described other moments throughout his term as Prime Minister that would reveal just how committed Queen Elizabeth II was to her job. Johnson recalled that when he would be pressed to remember the names of other world leaders or historical British battles, the Queen was always quick to provide the correct answer. Still, the Queen never made the PM feel bad for his momentary memory lapse. Instead, the PM said, "She was never less than supportive, and always encouraging, always thinking about how others might be feeling." 

The former PM echoed similar sentiments in his September 2022 speech to the House of Commons, during which he dubbed the late monarch "Queen Elizabeth the Great," saying, "As our longest reigning monarch, Her Majesty witnessed tremendous change, moving adroitly with the times but always providing stability and reassurance. She was our constant throughout this great Elizabethan era" (via YouTube).

The Prime Minister also remembered the Queen's lighter moments

Former PM Boris Johnson also shared a few moments of levity in his tribute. For example, Johnson recounted telling the Queen that he had a nightmare about showing up late to a meeting with her and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. The PM wrote, "She beamed, and I could tell that she had heard this one before, probably from other PMs. 'Were you naked?' She asked because it turns out that is a common feature of such dreams." 

Indeed, Queen Elizabeth's prim outward demeanor was different from what she was really like when only with her inner circle, a contrast Johnson got to witness more closely during his tenure as PM. Johnson began and ended the tribute with a story about the Queen offering him advice on dealing with the swooping, territorial magpies that inhabited the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Johnson wrote that the Queen said, "It's easy. What you do is say: 'Good morning, Mr. Magpie, today is ... ' and then you give the right day and the right date. That does the trick." 

"It works," Johnson concluded, "because it sometimes takes an effort, in the morning fog, to remember what day and date it is. Once you have, you are in charge of the agenda. Your mind moves on. So, if you get spooked by a magpie today, tell him [the date] and get on with your day, fortified by some practical advice from Elizabeth, our late, great queen."