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The rare times the late Queen was moved to tears in public - see emotional photos

The monarch has welled up on the rare occasion

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Gemma Strong
Online Digital News Director
12 November 2022
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The Queen dedicated her life to royal service, and over the years developed a steadfast and resolute public persona. In times of great adversity, she steadied the nation with her unwavering strength and stoicism and is regarded worldwide as the epitome of a true leader.

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But the late monarch did show emotion on rare occasions, one of which has now been featured in The Crown. Her Majesty was seen in tears when Prime Minister John Major told her the Royal Yacht Britannia would be decommissioned. Although we won't know if the Queen cried when she learnt of the moment, but see was seen in tears at the ceremony.

As the moment features in The CrownHELLO! looks back at all the times the Queen showed emotion in public life.

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Aberfan – 1966

In October 1966, tragedy hit the coaling mining village of Aberfan, South Wales, when a colliery spoil tip located directly above the village slid downhill. The devastating event resulted in the death of 144 people, 116 of whom were children. One day after the final victim was recovered from the debris, the Queen and Prince Philip travelled to pay their respects to the deceased and their loved ones.

It was later reported that waiting eight days to visit was one of the monarch's biggest regrets, but she appeared visibly moved as she walked around the site of the tragedy with her husband. "I think she felt in hindsight that she might have gone there a little earlier. It was a sort of lesson for us that you need to show sympathy and to be there on the spot, which I think people craved from her," said Sir William Heseltine, who worked in the royal press office at the time of the tragedy.

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The Queen and Prince Philip pictured on their visit to Aberfan

The Queen's visit to Aberfan was put under the spotlight once again in season three of The Crown. Many criticised the portrayal of the monarch, who is told in one scene to "display emotion". Actress Olivia Colman, who stars as the monarch, later voiced the line: "I dabbed a bone-dry eye and by some miracle no one noticed."

However, viewers were less than impressed by the "cold-hearted" portrayal of the Queen, with one tweeting: "Shame on the #TheCrown's producers! It's ridiculous how they portrayed the Queen as unfeeling during the Aberfan disaster. There's a video on YouTube of her visit and she is clearly upset."

Harold Wilson's then-press secretary Joe Haines also commented on the narrative that the Queen was faking her tears at Aberfan: "Anyone who saw her at The Cenotaph knows that," he said, calling the show's narrative "absolute nonsense".

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The Decommissioning of Royal Yacht Britannia – 1997

The Queen famously shed a tear when she attended the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia during a ceremony in Portsmouth in 1997. Overcome with emotion, she was seen wiping her eyes as her beloved yacht was taken out of service after 22 years.

The Queen had a deep personal affection for the vessel, which she had herself launched in April 1953. It carried the monarch and her family on a number of occasions, on both official and private family voyages. She transported Princess Anne and the then-Prince Charles to Malta in order for them to meet up with the Queen and Prince Philip at the end of their Commonwealth Tour, and Charles and Princess Diana took their honeymoon cruise on the Britannia in 1981.

During her career as Royal Yacht, Britannia conveyed the Queen, other members of the royal family and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters.

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The monarch wipes away a tear at the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Britannia is now a visitor attraction moored in the historic Port of Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland. The clocks on board are stopped at 3:01, the time that the Queen last disembarked the vessel. In July 2011, it once again welcomed the royal family when a drinks reception was held on board for Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall to celebrate their upcoming wedding.

Field of Remembrance – 2002

The Queen was moved to tears as she attended the opening of the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in 2002. It was an especially poignant visit as she took on her late mother's role at the ceremony, held in memory of Britain's war heroes.

The open-air service was rarely missed by the Queen Mother, and she had taken part in the ceremony in 2001, shortly before her death in March. Tears rolled down the Queen's face during a minute's silence after she planted a small wooden cross in remembrance.

Following that, there was a walkabout around the churchyard to inspect some of the 19,000 crosses from all over the country which pay tribute to the fallen. The Queen then attended a short service in St Margaret's Church.

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Attending the opening of the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in 2002

A service for fallen soldiers of Duke of Lancaster regiment – 2016

The Queen became visibly emotional during a moving service for the fallen soldiers of the Duke of Lancaster regiment in 2016.

The monarch had just returned to her seat having unveiled a statue in memory of members of the regiment who have died since it was formed in 2006. The Queen has a deep personal attachment to the Duke of Lancaster regiment. She is its colonel-in-chief and it is also named after her. The Duke of Lancaster is one of the titles bestowed upon the sovereign.

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A tear rolls down the Queen's cheek at a service for fallen soldiers of the Duke of Lancaster regiment

With some 250 guests looking on, including soldiers severely injured in Afghanistan and the families of those killed in battle, a solitary tear could be seen rolling down her right cheek. The Queen was seen discreetly wiping it away with her gloved hand before managing to regain her composure. For a few moments afterwards, she closed her eyes. During the ceremony, she had laid a wreath with a simple message: "In memory of the glorious dead. Elizabeth R."

Remembrance Sunday service – 2019

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The monarch pictured at the 2019 Remembrance Sunday service

The Queen was seen wiping away a tear during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in 2019 as Britain fell silent to honour Britain’s war heroes. The monarch, dressed in sombre black, was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony above the Whitehall memorial for the annual ceremony. She looked on as her son Prince Charles placed the first wreath of red poppies on the Whitehall memorial; the Queen last performed the same duty in 2016.

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