Diamond Jubilee: Being the Queen

This weekend thousands of people across the country will be holding street parties or attending public events to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

While people across the UK hang up bunting and make sandwiches for get-togethers with family and friends the Queen herself will be preparing for a busy weekend with numerous scheduled at the Epsom Derby, River Thames Pageant, a concert at Buckingham Palace and a service at St Paul's Cathedral.

While it might be hard to imagine what it would be like to be the Queen, a few women have had a taste of the Royal life.

For those who bear a resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II the celebrations have a special significance as their lives have been influenced by looking like one of the most recognisable people in the world.

Patricia Ford

Image caption Patricia Ford has been a Queen lookalike for 10 years

Patricia Ford has been a lookalike for 10 years.

The Londoner, who now lives in Staffordshire, decided to approach lookalike agencies after people started to comment on her likeness to the Queen.

Ms Ford, 76, had previously worked as a school secretary and a personal secretary, and balances her lookalike appearances with work as an exams invigilator.

She said: "This year has been very hectic. If I normally get 10 inquiries a week I'm getting 10 a day now mostly for the beginning of June.

"I'll miss all the celebrations because I'll be travelling around the country."

'Unenviable life'

Ms Ford said she did not normally get star-struck when she met celebrities at her various appearances although she had enjoyed meeting Bob Geldof.

And although not an ardent royalist she said she does respect the Queen.

"She's a really nice lady who lives an unenviable life - I wouldn't want to be her."

She added she could not imagine doing the same job for 60 years.

"She should relax and put her feet up and do what she wants to do rather than looking at her engagement diary all the time," she said.

Ella Slack

Image caption Ella Slack has been a Queen stand-in for 17 years

Unlike Patricia Ford, Ella Slack is not a lookalike.

She works as a "Queen stand-in", taking the place of the Queen for rehearsals prior to large-scale public events.

Ms Slack, who used to work for the BBC before her retirement, first offered to stand in for the Queen at the Cenotaph during a remembrance service rehearsal.

She is a similar height to the Queen and tries to choose outfits suitable for a royal occasion.

She is impressed by how hard the Queen works.

"I think she's amazing," she said. "I practised at Windsor last weekend and stood for an awfully long time to watch the troops go by.

"For VJ Day I rode in a carriage - it's very hard to smile for a long time."

Ms Slack has also rehearsed for the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen and Prince Phillip's Golden Wedding anniversary and the millennium celebrations.

Most recently she has been rehearsing for the Diamond Jubilee including travelling on the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell.

She said: "For the rehearsal in April I had an outfit made and someone trimmed my hat for me but it was cold and windy and wet so I could only go up there (on the deck of the barge) briefly."

She has not met the Queen but has been near her on a few occasions and thinks she might watch some of the rehearsals.

Although people do not normally mistake her for the Queen that has changed recently.

"I was coming through the airport and everyone was saying 'Good morning Your Majesty'.

Jeannette Charles

Image caption Jeannette Charles travelled all over the world and met various celebrities as part of her work

Jeannette Charles always thought it was funny when people pointed out her resemblance to the then Princess Elizabeth when she was a teenager.

It was only in 1972 when she commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of her for her husband's birthday that her appearance brought her attention.

The artist who painted her picture wrote about her likeness in her local newspaper the Essex Chronicle.

Mrs Charles related how the story was picked up by the national media with the word "look-a-like" coined by a Daily Express reporter.

"I lived in a village and the next village wanted me to open a greengrocer's shop.

"That's how it built up and I had David Frost, Bill Grundy and all kinds of people interviewing me."

Hollywood treatment

As the Queen she appeared in the Chevy Chase comedy National Lampoon's European Vacation and in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad where she acted opposite Leslie Nielsen.

"It was wonderful going all the way to Hollywood and being treated like one of them," she said.

"Leslie Nielsen used to sit with me and talk about when he was a DJ. I was just one of the gang."

She said she has a lot of respect for the Royal Family.

"I'm one year younger than the Queen," she said. "I was brought up to respect the Royal Family and stand for the National Anthem."

She said she came from an era when women were expected to be wives and mothers but her likeness to the Queen meant she had been "very lucky" and enjoyed all kinds of opportunities.

"I've been all around the world and met Lords and Ladies. I've had a wonderful life," she said.

Although ill health has prevented her from doing public appearances for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee she said she is looking forward to watching the coverage at home.

She said: "I think the Royal family are absolutely amazing. I really do."

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