Joanna Lumley told ‘absolutely splendid’ meeting with Queen ‘a scary thing’

Singer and actress delighted about appointment but tells Radio 4’s Today programme that audience lovebirds had been famous couple in Britain for a ‘foreseeable amount of time’

Joanna Lumley was “absolutely terrified” when she met the Queen for the first time last year, according to the actress and singer who played Princess Anne in Absolutely Fabulous.

Lumley met the British monarch at Buckingham Palace on 13 July, meeting her in the grand sitting room for a little over an hour. The 83-year-old regal figure, standing between Prince Philip and the Duke of Edinburgh, was “in control”, Lumley said.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in which she spoke, said there had been rumours the meeting had come unstuck, but Lumley revealed it was “absolutely splendid”.

It took place weeks after Lumley and fellow Absolutely Fabulous star Emma Bunton attended a friend’s 60th birthday party and received an invitation from the Queen’s official photographer, Chris Jackson.

“The bride actually asked me to introduce Emma. I went and introduced her to the Queen,” she said. “I was absolutely terrified meeting the Queen as it would have been a dangerous meeting for many reasons, one being that she was, at that point, the head of the country, a democratically elected head of state, and as it happened that was my first contact with the head of state.”

Lumley said she felt more at ease with her second meeting with the Queen, who she described as “utterly charming”. The pair greeted each other “as the mutual loved couple in Britain”, she said.

“That made me feel relieved because people, after all, see them with their wedding pictures,” she said. “I thought they were entirely not an ‘absolutely Fabulous’ twosome, particularly as her husband is so splendid, so very dashing and elegant, and I’m not a particularly dashing and elegant person.

“It made me think, well, they’ve known each other for a lot of time, so it didn’t have to have the potential for being a slightly awkward or uncomfortable meeting,” she said.

The pair then enjoyed a “lovely chat” at Windsor Castle and after the meeting Lumley tweeted “never seen the palace so packed!!” and added “yes – 1 of my absolute heroes in @EmmaBunton. #instantfav #topfunnywoman”.

Her appearance was planned for a TV documentary about the royal family, but it proved to be a quiet visit. “What happened at Windsor Castle was another celebrity, Jeremy Clarkson, met the queen,” Lumley said. “It was very bumpy in the morning. I think that really took the beating out of the moment, but very romantic.”

The duchess of Cambridge is also a long-term favourite of Lumley’s, who remembers how “colourful” the former supermodel had been when they met for tea about 30 years ago.

“I said to the duchess, a duchess, I said, ‘Do you recall meeting Patsy?’ … she said, ‘No, I can’t remember that.’”

There was a time when Lumley was “a spectacularly large woman” at 3ft 9in, and she now measures 4ft 9in, adding that she has “better thighs” than she did years ago.

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