“[Charles] had been to see her and had an hour at her bedside," author Robert Hardman, whose new book "The Making of a King: Charles III and the Modern Monarchy" is out this week, tells PEOPLE
Charles, 75, carried out a meaningful vigil by the Queen's side in her room at Balmoral Castle just a few hours before her death. He then retreated to his nearby home on the Balmoral estate to collect his thoughts when he was summoned back to the castle by his sister Princess Anne, who told Charles to hurry back to the castle as the Queen had taken a turn for the worse. He learned of his mother's death by phone as he was driving back to the castle.
“He had been to see her and had an hour at her bedside,” says Robert Hardman, author of The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy (out Jan. 18). “We don't know the extent to which he was conscious during that hour, but he very much made his peace.”
Hardman adds, “And the other factor, of course, is that, once you are king, there is so much you've got to do that there isn't much time left to dwell on, ‘If only I’d been there 20 minutes earlier.’"
Indeed, the very fact that Charles was away from the castle for a short time at his Birkhall home with his wife Camilla (then the Duchess of Cornwall) indicated that there hadn’t been a panic. Charles had been out picking mushrooms when he received Anne's call to head back.
“That day, people knew that she didn't have long and she was declining and that it was highly unlikely that she'd be leaving Balmoral,” Hardman says. “But there was definitely a sense that this was a matter of days, not hours.”
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In his book, the author shares a memo of the monarch's final moments from her private secretary, Sir Edward Young, who was at Balmoral when the Queen died on Sept. 8, 2022.
"Very peaceful. In her sleep. Slipped away. Old age. She wouldn't have been aware of anything. No pain," Young notes in the previously unseen memo that's now part of the Royal Archives.
The Queen also left behind two private letters—one for her son, Charles, and another for her top aide, Young.
"We will probably never know what they said. However, it is clear enough that the Queen had known that the end was imminent and had planned accordingly. Were they final instructions or final farewells? Or both?” Hardman writes. “Elizabeth II had been completing her own last pieces of unfinished business.”
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