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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Charles and his 'darling grandmother'
Queen Mother
Queen Mother led a long and colourful life
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Peter Hunt
By Peter Hunt
BBC royal correspondent

Prince Charles is the first member of the family to speak publicly about his grandmother's death.

It was a very impassioned tribute, he spoke very highly of her, as you'd expect. At one stage during his comments his voice almost broke.

The prince told of how he'd dreaded this occasion and how much he would miss the laughter and the jokes that he used to share with her.

I think his words will strike a chord. You get the sense when you hear his tribute that it was written from the heart, it was written by him, it wasn't written by an anonymous advisor.

They had a very close relationship. What we have to remember is that when Prince Charles was a small boy, his mother had just become Queen and at that stage it was the norm for members of the royal family to leave small children for quite lengthy periods of time - while they carried out royal duties.

We only have to recall the criticism of Diana Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York for taking their children abroad with them on royal tours.

But back in the 1950s that would have been highly unusual.

Prince Charles was left to his own devices in the hands of nannies back in Britain for quite some time, one trip was up to six months.

So from a very early age the figure he turned to was the Queen Mother and they became very, very close.

Painful time

The prince has often spoken very warmly about his grandmother and I remember a few years ago he talked about her undiminished zest for life.

The prince paints a picture of a woman that many people felt they knew

One of her aides told me that even though her death was not unexpected, it was still a shock and a painful time for Prince Charles, given their closeness.

I think many people will be able to empathise with that because often the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren can be a very strong one.

The prince paints a picture of a woman that many people felt they knew. He tells of her ability to relate to all sorts of people, yet she was also a distant figure.

The Queen Mother was an upholder of the status quo and believed very much in the monarchy. But the picture he paints of her accords very much with what other people's image of her was.

Prince Charles talks in very glowing terms about her sense of humour and of her being an institution, phrases which will have an echo for people.

Dominant force

Aside from this very personal loss, the royal family will be mourning the significant loss of one of their dominant forces.

A woman who represented the status quo, a woman to whom words like "reform" and "change" were not in the dictionary.

She had a very strong sense of right and wrong and a very strong sense of what it meant to be British.

As a result she really did struggle in recent years to deal with the domestic troubles within the Royal Family.

There's one memorable phrase about her, one of her private secretaries talks about her being the "imperial ostrich" - she did struggle to acknowledge the problems within her family, she would put her head in the sand and hope that it would all go away.

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