Elaine is is taking the lead in one of King Charles III’s coronation projects
She is the grande dame of musical theatre and oozes charm, warmth and wisdom, so it should come as no surprise that when a King or Queen need a confidante then Elaine Paige has a starring role. From an intimate chat with Queen Elizabeth II about love and loss, teaming up as “trolley dollies” with Queen Camilla, to sharing off-colour jokes with King Charles III, the singing legend has had a unique insight into the monarchy.
After a relationship with the Royal Family that has spanned her 60-year career, she is now taking the lead in one of the King’s coronation projects.
Together with Queen Camilla, Elaine, Dame Judi Dench and baker Nadiya Hussain are encouraging members of the public to nominate unsung heroes for The Royal Voluntary Service Coronation Champions Awards 2023 which will celebrate volunteers across the country.
Elaine, 75, shared memories of her many fascinating royal encounters. The Cats star also told how she laid flowers for the Queen at Buckingham Palace soon after she died and praised Charles for his work since becoming King – while revealing his very naughty sense of humour.
Elaine has starred in a raft of hit musicals, including Evita, Cats and Chess, and landed chart success with songs such as Memory and I Know Him So Well. She has also released more than 20 albums and hosts a weekend Radio 2 show.
Elaine’s relationship with the Royal Family that has spanned her 60-year career
Asked about her relationship with Queen Camilla, the multi-award winning singer and actress said: “She’s the most down-to-earth woman with a great sense of humour. I went with her to Leicester General Hospital a couple of years ago, before the pandemic.”
“She said to me, ‘Well, Elaine, we’re going to be trolley dollies today’, and so we were. We pushed this trolley together around various wards, and spoke to patients recovering from illness.”
“There are no airs and graces about her. She’s very matter of fact. She has a wonderful sense of humour and brings light to everything.”
“She is easy to talk to, very communicative and easy to be around, very easy to get along with.”
“She has worked so hard. That particular day, she told me that she and the now King and William and Kate had all travelled up to Leicester on the train, and they were going off to do various openings and visiting factories.”
“She’d been to a handbag factory, and there were two or three other things as well as meeting me at the hospital.”
“When she left she still had another one to do, before getting the train back to London.”
“And you think, ‘Crikey, all I did that day was go to the hospital and meet her to go around the ward’.”
She continued: “I’m involved with the Coronation Cham-pions Awards, which are a great idea. There are so many wonderful people out there who volunteer in their community, and they are really truly special.”
“I call them the angels…the angels of life. I don’t know what we would do without them. They are the glue that holds communities together.”
In 2002, the late Queen lost her sister Princess Margaret followed by the Queen Mother six weeks later. Elaine, who was appointed OBE in 1985, had written her a letter of condolence and saw her not long after. “She was just absolutely unique. I had the great good fortune to meet her on several occasions. She was revered across the world, not for her longevity but because we all knew that she was balanced and fair, fair-minded, and wise.”
“She must have been through I don’t know how many prime ministers and been Queen for so many years. We all held her up, quite rightly, as a role model and she certainly was.”
“I was presented to her at the Royal Academy of Art at one of their summer exhibitions.”
“The equerry came up to me and said they’d like to present me to her. I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve had a couple of glasses of champagne…’ “
“Anyway, I met her, and it was not long after she’d lost her sister as well as her mother and I had written a condolence letter to her.”
“I said in the letter, no matter how old your mother is, the loss of one’s mother is always a bit of a wrench and would take some getting over.”
“I knew exactly how she must be feeling because I had not long lost my mother.”
“It was a moment in my life, it changes your life completely because you have to grow up.”
“And so I was presented to her and she thanked me so much for the letter. We talked about the fact that no matter how long you’ve had your mother, how awful it is to lose them.”
“I was about to sing for the Queen Mother at Windsor Castle before she passed away, but it was postponed and cancelled. So there the Queen was, and I, standing in the summer exhibition, and she was apologising to me for the fact that they had to postpone it. She said, ‘I can assure you it’s a postponement. We haven’t cancelled it. I really want you to come and sing for the family, it will be wonderful. So we will be back in touch to reschedule’. It was a real conversation. She had this wonderful way of connecting with you in a real way, even though she was the Queen.”
Elaine and Camilla help out at Leicester General Hospital
Elaine recalled: “She was so tiny, she was the same height as me. For most of my life I’ve had to look up, but she was only about five foot.”
“So that was something I remember – looking somebody straight in the eye for once.”
She said the Queen’s death “did rather affect me” and she laid flowers in tribute close to Buckingham Palace.
“I walked around the Palace. I went to the park. I laid my flowers.”
“There were mountains of flowers and that was so beautiful, all around different streets, beautifully laid out.”
“It was very moving to see how it affected everybody in the country. It brought us all together on a very sad occasion, of course.”
Elaine said she is impressed by the new King.
To mark the Coronation thousands of organisations across the country are calling on volunteers to help out in their communities with The Big Help Out on May 8.
Elaine said: “It’s a more inclusive way of kingship. He is doing a wonderful job in these early stages. He also has a very good sense of humour.”
“That’s probably why Charles and Camilla get on so well. He loves comedy and all those old radio shows, and he loves Joan Rivers. For an event at St James’s Palace, Joan Rivers was hosting the evening, and I joined him afterwards at his table. She was as blue as blue could be, and every time she said anything a bit off the mark everybody would turn around and look at him first before they dared to laugh. And he was howling with laughter.”
Speaking about her latest personal projects, Elaine said: “I’m writing my autobiography, so I’m not thinking about performing so much. I’m reflecting on some of those performances and my life as a whole.”