OF all the wonderful accolades that have emerged this past week, news that the Queen was a Gary Barlow fan was, perhaps, one of the more unlikely.
The Take That singer has paid tribute to the late monarch, revealing the pair struck up a warm friendship over the course of more than 30 meetings.
He has told how he even put on a private concert at an intimate birthday party for Her Majesty in 2012.
The Queen was such a huge Gary fan, it turns out she even knew the words to his Commonwealth track, Sing, from the same year.
The star says: “Her Majesty did such a wonderful job and was such a wonderful example to us all.
“She ruled with her heart, she was amazing.
“She had such a recognizable face because obviously her face is everywhere you look, so when you saw her, it was mesmerizing. I counted up all the times I met her and it’s definitely over 30. I felt so, so sad when I heard of her passing.
“I knew Sing was one of her favorite songs.
“Ellie Goulding told me she was in a line-up and she asked the Queen if she liked singing, and she sang a line from Sing.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s brilliant!’. It was lovely. Sadly I didn’t hear her sing myself.”
Royal biographer Penny Junor revealed that the Queen’s favorite songs included Sing.
She also enjoyed The White Cliffs of Dover by Dame Vera Lynn, and American movie and dance legend Fred Astaire singing Cheek To Cheek.
Gary, 51, co-wrote Sing with impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee.
Within hours of performing it, alongside female choir the Military Wives, it topped the charts.
Today, the lyrics — which include “Some words they can’t be spoken, only sung/To hear a thousand voices shouting love/And light and hope” — couldn’t be more poignant.
Gary first met the Queen in 1993, at the Royal Variety Performance. Alongside bandmates Robbie Williams, Mark Owen, Howard Donald and Jason Orange — and their parents — he nervously shook her hand.
Take That later performed Could It Be Magic, prompting an enchanting smile from the monarch.
Gary, who has sold more than 50 million records, later went on to have a series of one-to-one meetings with Her Majesty over the two years ahead of the Diamond Jubilee.
He says each summit was scheduled to last precisely four minutes.
But he jokes he would try to trim it down to save the Queen time from her relentless schedule.
He recalls: “She was so good at putting everyone at ease, she never let anyone feel intimidated.
“There were a whole heap of things we were told we could and couldn’t do. We were scared to death before we met her.
“But she broke all the rules within about two seconds, shook our hands, spoke to us, didn’t correct anyone.
“Only the Queen’s title was intimidating, and the people around her, she wasn’t. If she hadn’t been like this, able to chat to people from all walks of life, someone like me would never have been able to put the concert on. I’m so grateful for that.
“My meetings with the Queen were always four minutes long, which always amused me. I would start by saying, ‘I think I can be in and out in one-and-a-half minutes’.
“She could make decisions quickly — it was, ‘Yes, yes, yes, no, yes’ — she made it easy for me. We’d rattle off six questions, and then I’d be saying, ‘Right, that’s it from me. I won’t take up any more of your time’ . . . and I’d be out of there.”
I kept saying to her, ‘If there’s anyone or anything you want, anything at all, you know you only have to ask’. And she would always say, ‘No, no — just make the best show for the people.
The Queen served the nation and Commonwealth selflessly and tirelessly for 70 years.
In an anecdote that typifies this, Gary says she wanted her Jubilee concert to be a celebration for the people — not her.
He adds: “I kept saying to her, ‘If there’s anyone or anything you want, anything at all, you know you only have to ask’. And she would always say, ‘No, no — just make the best show for the people’.
“It’s amazing, she was celebrating her anniversary but she just wanted everyone else to have a good time.”
Gary, who was awarded an OBE ten years ago for services to music, is very fond of the Royal Family.
Photos from that day are dotted around his West London home.
And he says his mum was especially proud after accompanying him to Buckingham Palace for his Investiture.
“There’s a framed picture from that day in my study,” Gary says with a smile. “Actually there are pictures all over the house of that day, but I always think these days are more for mums and dads.
She was so good at putting everyone at ease, she never let anyone feel intimidated.
“After the Diamond Jubilee the Queen thanked me. I got a little telegram from her afterwards, which was amazing. That’s framed too.”
Because of his unlikely bond with the Queen, the Brit Award winner and former X Factor judge shed a tear when he heard of her passing.
Gary admitted: “I had a little tear. . . it felt very, very strange.”
One of his most incredible meetings with Elizabeth II was when he attended a very low-key, spontaneous — and off the record — gathering for her 86th birthday in 2012.
The celebration was at Lord Lloyd Webber’s home in Newbury, Berks, where the racehorse-loving monarch once kept stables. They played her Sing, plus show tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Gary, who was also at her 90th birthday celebration at Windsor in 2016, explains of the bash: “There was one night around her birthday we put on a little impromptu concert for her.
“Her stables were very close to Andrew’s house, so she had about 12 other people with her. I’d taken a lot of the (Jubilee) plans with me, and she spent about 20 minutes looking at all the plans.
“She was really interested. I’d got every conceivable answer prepared, but of course she asked me the one question I didn’t know the answer to, which was how long was it going to take to take all the gear (marquees, stands, etc) down.
Only the Queen’s title was intimidating, and the people around her, she wasn’t. If she hadn’t been like this, able to chat to people from all walks of life, someone like me would never have been able to put the concert on. I’m so grateful for that.
“So I made it up and said six hours. I didn’t have a clue.
“That night I remember her talking a lot about horses.
“Those little moments when there are no cameras — there are no pictures from that night at all — where everyone was chatting, are so, so special.
“She was a truly wonderful woman.”