This is edited version
Thousands crammed the quayside in a state of high excitement. There hadn’t been much to cheer in this part of Glasgow through all those drab years of post-war austerity but people were thrilled as Britain’s glamorous young Queen and her dashing husband made their way to John Brown’s shipyard on the Clyde.
She was on her way to launch a new symbol of British maritime excellence, one which would put the Great back in to Great Britain.
The name of the new Royal Yacht – still codenamed ‘Ship number 691’ – had been a source of intense speculation, too. Now all would be revealed.
So why, then, was the Queen looking so subdued – sad even?
As ITV viewers will discover shortly, the launch of the new Royal Yacht Britannia in April 1953 was not so much a celebration for the Queen. Rather, it was a poignant reminder of her beloved father and the enormity of the legacy he had bequeathed her.
Shortly before his untimely death the year before, King George VI had been instrumental in creating the modern Commonwealth. The new Royal Yacht had been designed to transport him around it.
Yet he would never live to set foot on his ship or his new Commonwealth. It would be his daughter who would spend her life reinforcing that link between the Crown and the ‘family of nations’.
This wasn’t just business. It was – and still is – personal.
We’ll see how the Queen tutored her children in their international role.
And we’ll see the Queen, in her tenth decade, hosting the biggest summit in modern British history.
Viewers may find it hard to believe that she is slowing down at all. Even while we were filming, the longest-lived, longest-reigning monarch in British history kept on coming up with new ways of bolstering her adored Commonwealth – parties, private audiences, even a fashion show.
She may be known in the industry as ‘One-Take Windsor’ but this seasoned pro had to do it all over again after a bird in the palace garden decided to join in
We’ll see a delightful but not unstressful moment as the recording of her Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth grinds to a halt. She may be known in the industry as ‘One-Take Windsor’ but this seasoned pro had to do it all over again after a bird in the palace garden decided to join in.
Even a monarch is powerless when nature rudely intervenes.
The Queen is not just the most famous woman on earth. To millions of people everywhere – even those who owe her no allegiance and don’t speak her language – she is, quite simply, part of their lives.
That’s why this series is called Queen Of The World (along with my book, serialised earlier this week in the Daily Mail). The title is not wishful thinking.
It was actually inspired by an ex-American ambassador who voiced the thought that Her Majesty has been a ‘constant’ for people around the globe.
When it was announced that the 2018 Commonwealth summit would not only be coming to London but to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to explore the Queen’s role on the world stage. Having given up long-haul travel, she may now have put her days of globe-trotting behind her.
But she remains a very hands-on Head of the Commonwealth. There was little doubt that the leaders of the 53 member states would want to be at such an important gathering which the Queen herself was organising with such obvious enthusiasm at her own home.
So, for the best part of two years, I have been part of a small production team filming the Queen, her family, her staff, her politicians and her residences, along with plenty of ordinary – and extraordinary – people from all over the world.
We saw the historic meeting where all those leaders agreed to endorse the Prince of Wales as the future Head of the Commonwealth. It just so happened that there would be a royal wedding on our watch, too.
In parallel with the series, I consulted key royal, political and diplomatic figures for the book, as well as the Queen’s own Royal Archives.
And what comes through time and again is not merely the fact that the Queen is devoted to the Commonwealth – it’s safe to say that we were all well aware of that anyway (ditto her love of dogs and horses).
Besides, she is head of state of 16 of the 53 Commonwealth nations – including Britain – from Canada and Belize to Australia and New Zealand.
Rather, what is so striking is the extent to which she remains such a hands-on head of an organisation spanning a third of the earth’s people. It has never been a case of just turning up and waving benignly.
Today, as always, in so many ways, she rolls up her sleeves. And she does so not merely because she enjoys it but out of a sense of duty both to her father and to her successors.
It was Indian independence in 1947 which brought the British Empire to a close and which led her father and his ministers to create the modern Commonwealth. As a result, India has always been key to the story.
The series will show how much the Queen values its role, so much so that she would even host a special Indian-themed party, illuminate the palace with an Indian light show and despatch the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to Delhi with a personal message for the Indian prime minister, inviting him to her summit.
It was Indian independence in 1947 which brought the British Empire to a close and which led her father and his ministers to create the modern Commonwealth
We also see the Queen inviting some very different guests to her home. Many of her poorer realms are in the Caribbean, nations which depend on tourism to keep their economies afloat. Keen to do her bit, particularly now that she can no longer tour these countries herself, she hit upon the idea of a scholarship scheme.
Each Caribbean country in which she is head of state would be asked to send a rising star from the hospitality industry to spend six weeks immersed in the Royal Household.
The documentary reveals what happened next. Some would be chefs attached to the Royal Kitchen.
Others would be housekeeping managers, learning how to run a palace, or front-of-house staff helping to arrange receptions, lunches and dinners.
This would not just be a career-boosting and illustrious addition to the CV. ‘It’s a fun place to work. I say it’s an adventure every day,’ says Claudine Jeffrey from Antigua.
‘If you suddenly bump into her in the corridor, don’t panic.’ Then he adds: ‘I know you will. We all do!’
Here is an engaging but telling insight into the way in which even the Queen’s nearest and dearest are in awe of the monarch.
While we were filming, the Queen also appointed Prince Harry as her new Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, ahead of his wedding. With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge already undertaking major tours on behalf of the Queen, here was a clear sign that Prince Harry would be playing a key role in maintaining the Commonwealth connection, too.
It was also made spectacularly clear that his future wife shares his enthusiasm from the first moment she emerged into the sunlight at Windsor Castle on that memorable Saturday in May.
With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge already undertaking major tours on behalf of the Queen, here was a clear sign that Prince Harry would be playing a key role in maintaining the Commonwealth connection, too
Back then, there were just eight members of the Commonwealth. Since then, it has grown more than six times over.
We talked to Anne, Princess Royal, about the way in which the Queen trained her children in the art of royal diplomacy – and about her very first walkabout as a teenager. If it was not an unalloyed pleasure, it was invaluable on-the-spot training.
Among our many intriguing discoveries in the making of this series was new film footage of that historic day when the Queen came to launch her new yacht. Not only was the film commissioned by the family whose shipyard had built Britannia but it was also shot in colour.
The fact that the Queen is devoted to the Commonwealth is well known, as is her love of dogs and horses. Pictured are the Queen’s Corgis being dried after a walk in Balmoral in 2013
We really do feel the euphoria. But we also clearly sense the melancholy in that sombre, slight figure at the centre of it all.
Dressed in black – for Queen Mary had just died – the young Queen was mindful that this was never meant to be her day.
This had been her father’s great scheme, as she made clear in her words to the vast crowd: ‘He felt most strongly, as I do, that a yacht was a necessity not a luxury for the head of our great British Commonwealth, between whose countries the sea is no barrier but the natural and indestructible highway.’
Now, she would have to carry on where he left off. Watch this landmark television series and you will be in no doubt that she has done him proud.
Queen Of The World starts on 25 September, 9pm, ITV. Queen Of The World by Robert Hardman, £25, Century