Queen Elizabeth II quipped that a crossbow-wielding intruder who threatened to kill her might have "put a dampner on Christmas", according to a new biography of the late monarch.
The story is recounted by Gyles Brandreth, the broadcaster and a close confidant of the senior royals, in his new book and exemplifies the late Queen's famously wry sense of humour.
Mr Brandreth, a former Tory MP, recounted how Her Majesty was always able to take "the possibility of being in the firing line in her stride".
In an extract of Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait, serialised in the Daily Mail, he describes how last Christmas “a masked and hooded intruder wielding a crossbow approached a police officer in the grounds of Windsor Castle and announced he had come ‘to kill the Queen’.”
The intruder was arrested and charged under the 1842 Treason Act. When the Queen was informed of the incident, Mr Brandreth writes, “she said to one of her team in the Windsor Covid ‘bubble’: ‘Yes, well, that would have put a dampner on Christmas, wouldn’t it?’”
The Queen, who was 95 at the time, was at the castle at the time of the incident on December 25, along with Prince Charles, Camilla and other close family, before her tribute to her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh was broadcast to the nation.
The monarch's dry wit and sense of fun were hallmarks of her reign, deployed to break the ice on formal occasions and even to entertain the nation by playing herself alongside Paddington Bear or James Bond.
Mr Brandreth writes how it was Her Majesty's ‘wry, dry, humorous way of looking at things’ that made a particular impression on him.
He says that the “fun of spending time with the Queen” was often in discovering the surprisingly varied repertoire of things that amused her.
In other extracts he reveals the Queen's "spot on impressions", including an ‘alarmingly accurate’ vocal imitation of a Concorde aeroplane coming in to land over Windsor.
Her Majesty was also able to sing George Formby’s ‘When I'm cleaning windows’ in an “authentic Lancashire accent”.
In another, Mr Brandreth recalls a joke she made after the wedding in 1973 of horse-loving Princess Anne to Mark Philips, a member of the British eventing team which won gold in the Olympics the year before.
‘I shouldn’t wonder if their children are four-legged,’ the Queen is said to have remarked.
Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait is published by Michael Joseph on December 8.