Queen Elizabeth Left Behind Two Letters of 'Unfinished Business' on Her Deathbed

Royal staffers found two private letters by the queen's bedside after she passed - one to Charles III and one to her private secretary.

A new biography about King Charles III reveals the dramatic "unfinished business" that Queen Elizabeth II addressed on her death bed. Robert Hardman's The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy will be available on Thursday, but an excerpt published by The Daily Mail discusses the things that the queen left behind. She had a red box by her bedside with two letters that contained two private letters – one for Charles and one for her private secretary, Sir Edward Young.

According to Hardman's book, the queen famously used small red boxes to securely organize documents and correspondence throughout her reign. The boxes were locked and only two people had keys – the queen and her private secretary. After she passed away at Balmoral Castle, a footman discovered one last red box with her things. He brought it to Young who discovered two letters inside – one addressed to himself and one addressed to Charles, who would be assume the title of king that same day. The contents of these letters are still a secret, and they may never be known to the general public.

"We will probably never know what they said," Hardman wrote. "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? Elizabeth II had been completing her own last pieces of unfinished business."

One of the queen's final acts that we do know of was nominating candidates to join the order of Merit. In the excerpt, Hardman wrote: "The Queen had always taken it extremely seriously. The paperwork had gone up to her two days before so that she could go through the notes and tick her choices. Here it was, completed and returned for Sir Edward to make the necessary arrangements. It was the last document ever handled by Queen Elizabeth II. Even on her deathbed, there had been work to do. And she had done it."

Hardman has been covering the British royal family for years as a journalist, a TV pundit and an author. He wrote a biography of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 called Queen of Our Times – The Life of Elizabeth II, along with two previous books about the queen and another book about the monarchy in general. His new book is about King Charles and how his seven decades as the heir-apparent prepared him to take the throne.

The Making of a King by Robert Hardman will be available on Thursday, Jan. 18 in print, digital and audiobook formats. Hardman's other books are available now, including his biography of the queen.