TO the very end, Her Majesty the Queen was bright, happy and — as throughout her entire life — dutiful.
Informed sources have told HOAR how the monarch was “sparkling” and “buoyant” in her last days and weeks, despite her frailty.
The Queen was pictured at Balmoral watching a pipe band in her final days
The Queen sheltered under a gazebo at her Scottish home as she watched the band play
The Queen was determined to swear in Liz Truss as Britain’s new PM
And she was absolutely determined to swear in her 15th and final Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Only 48 hours before the “kissing of hands” ceremony took place at Balmoral, the Queen was advised by concerned courtiers that she might consider letting Prince Charles perform the duty instead.
Charles had already replaced his beloved mother by reading the Queen’s Speech in Parliament.
But, when it came to swearing in the new PM, she would not even consider the switch.
She told them all: “Of course I have to, it’s my job.”
She went ahead, spending 40 minutes with the outgoing PM Boris Johnson, who said the Queen was “bright and focused” throughout.
He said this was “amazing”, given how ill she obviously was.
Boris — who sources say made the Queen laugh during their final encounter — said: “It was a pretty emotional time.”
Official pictures of the meeting which followed with Ms Truss showed the Queen looking very frail, and leaning on a walking stick, but smiling.
To the great sadness of the nation, two days later the monarch passed away.
SHE WAS IN ‘SPARKLING’ FORM AT DINNERS
HOAR has been told that in the days before the ceremony she had been her usual self and was described as being very jolly at Balmoral lunches and dinners.
Sources have told how the Queen attended dinners with guests and family at the weekend and was in “sparkling form” and “buoyant”.
The only difference was that guests were asked not to dress up for dinner.
Today, we also reveal some of the last photographs ever of the Queen who was entertained by a pipe band last month — while wrapped up warm under a gazebo in the grounds of Balmoral Castle.
The Queen had become more frail during August and doctors in residence carried out regular checks-ups.
Prince Charles, now King Charles III, made daily visits.
Balmoral had been battered by unseasonable downpours as first Boris Johnson then Liz Truss flew in to meet the Queen.
It almost never happened as just hours earlier, her role in her final act was in doubt as aides and doctors were worried about her health, HOAR was told.
Charles politely offered to act as an able stand-in suggesting she did not need to do it.
But the Queen, who carried out more than 21,000 engagements during her 70 years, committed to her duty and made her way to her drawing room.
Johnson and Truss had been ordered to Balmoral for the ceremony after doctors advised the Queen not to travel south.
The next day, Princess Anne arrived back at Balmoral to be by her mother’s side, after she had been sailing off the coast of northern Scotland.
The Queen was placed under medical supervision and forced to pull out a video call with her Privy Council later that day.
Buckingham Palace insisted that the Queen simply needed to “rest” after a busy day.
In a touching written tribute after escorting her coffin to Edinburgh, the Princess Royal described how she was “fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life”.
On Thursday morning, the palace admitted for the first time they were “concerned” for the Queen’s health.
The Queen was said to be ‘alert and engaged’ during her final days
As Charles rushed back 150 miles from Birkhall and planes scrambled for William, Harry and Andrew, the palace announced the Queen’s death at 6.30pm.
The end came just 48 hours after she carried out her final constitutional act for the country she had unswervingly served for seven decades.
Just five days earlier, Her Maj enjoyed a dinner with close friends and family at Balmoral.
A source told HOAR: “It was unusual as it was very casual. No one was smartly dressed.
“But the Queen was in sparkling form. She was very, very jolly.
“She was funny, joking. She was buoyant.”
The Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields told the BBC the Queen seemed frail but in “really good spirits” when he dined with her the weekend before she died.
Another source said: “No one was ever in a panic at Balmoral that weekend. But the doctors were there.”
Photographs emerged of the Queen as she relaxed and enjoyed her favourite Canadian pipe band.
She was treated to a private performance by the 80-strong The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band from Ottawa.
One image, captured by a guest, shows the monarch watching intently from under a gazebo, flanked by two of her sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
Jack Brooksbank, 36, the husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Princess Eugenie, sat two chairs away.
Pipe Major Bethany Bisaillion told how the Queen was “thrilled” by the performance and appeared in high spirits as they played on August 17.
She said: “She really enjoyed it, she was laughing and smiling and was on great form.
“When we first arrived she came out the back door of Balmoral and saw me standing there and said, ‘Well, hello again.’
“During the performance she was clapping along and having a great time.
“What a privilege it was to be able to perform for her at Balmoral, it was our fifth time. She will be sorely missed.”
Bethany said that, unlike previous years, The Queen didn’t walk around to meet the band or give her a tour.
But, she says, Her Majesty was “alert” and “engaged” throughout the 30-minute performance, which featured stirring bagpipe sets and dance choreography.
The Queen was pictured smiling in an official photograph days before she died
Boris Johnson had visited The Queen at Balmoral in her final days