The Queen's day follows a pattern reflecting her life of service.

THE Queen's day begins at 7.30am when her maid brings morning tea. Two solid silver pots contain Earl Grey - the Queen's favourite brew - and hot water for a top-up. There is milk but no sugar and a few biscuits.

The cup and saucer are bone china and there is also a linen napkin bearing the royal cypher "EIIR".

The maid puts the morning tray on a bedside table and throws open the bedroom curtains. She turns on the radio, which is tuned to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, and the Queen absorbs the day's breaking news stories as she sips her tea.

Outside Buckingham Palace and her first-floor suite, the traffic is already beginning to build up on Constitution Hill and people are walking to work across Green Park or taking exercise.

The maid goes into the adjoining bathroom and runs the Queen a bath. Along the corridor, in his suite, the Duke of Edinburgh prefers to shower and drinks black coffee.

While the Queen is taking a bath, her dresser lays out the first outfit of the day in the adjacent dressing room. The Queen may have to change several times a day, depending on her engagements.

After she has dressed, the Queen's hairdresser brushes and arranges her hair in the familiar royal style.

Breakfast is served at 8.30am in the Queen's private, first-floor dining room overlooking the Palace garden.

Prince Philip joins her and may place titbits on the bird feeder he installed outside the window.

A tailcoated footman has brought the food - usually just toast and marmalade - with more tea and coffee.

The Queen likes to read The Daily Telegraph as well as the Racing Post, while Philip glances at all the morning papers.

Conversation may turn to the day's official engagements but is often kept to a minimum.

Tradition is never far from the hereditary monarch whose morning routine includes having her kilted piper play a selection of tunes on the bagpipes beneath her window.

Queen Victoria was the first monarch to have a personal piper and the tradition has continued since, with a break during the Second World War from 1941 to 1945. It is the principal duty of the Queen's Piper to play every weekday at 9am for about 15 minutes when she is in residence at Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Edinburgh's Holyroodhouse Palace or Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

The Queen is very knowledgeable about the pipes and notices the subtleties and any variations in the music.

By 9.30am, the Queen is usually seated at the Chippendale desk in her sitting-room-cum-office with her corgis for company.

A footman, detailed to look after the Queen's pets, has already walked the dogs in the garden and dried them on special towels if it is raining.

Private secretary Sir Robin Janvrin, a former naval officer, arrives from his office on the ground floor, carrying a wicker in-tray containing paperwork for the Queen to read and initial.

Sir Robin, clean-cut and the soul of discretion, gives a brief head bow and addresses the Queen as "Your Majesty". Subsequently he calls her "Ma'am" - to rhyme with jam not marmalade.

He runs through correspondence and other papers and discusses the day's programme, offering briefing notes on engagements and individuals the Queen is due to meet.

If guests are expected at the Palace, the housekeeper is summoned and arrangements made.

Later in the morning, the Queen's lady in waiting on duty is called into the sitting room and asked to reply to correspondence.

Letters from children receive special attention from the lady in waiting who signs the response, written on headed notepaper, on the Queen's behalf.

On investiture days, when the Queen presents honours, she proceeds to the Palace ballroom for 11am to perform the ceremony which takes more than an hour.

Official, but private, audiences take place at other times, involving foreign diplomats presenting their credentials, military chiefs and senior politicians who are privy counsellors.

Lunch is usually eaten alone although occasionally a lady-in-waiting is invited. Periodically, the Queen and Prince Philip host special lunches for high-achievers from varied walks of life or the royal couple may entertain a visiting VIP.

Immediately after lunch, if she has time, the Queen likes to walk in the Palace garden with her dogs.

Sometimes there are engagements in the afternoon when the Queen travels to a nearby event or, in summer, hosts a garden party in the Palace grounds.

So-called royal "away days" see the Queen, often accompanied by her husband, out of London, on occasions over-nighting on the Royal Train, to carry out a full day's engagements in a city or region.

When in the capital, the Queen likes to be back in her Palace suite by 5pm for high tea. Dainty sandwiches, scones and the Queen's favourite Dundee cake are served.

The corgis hoover up any crumbs and are treated to the scones with strawberry jam and cream.

After tea the Queen returns to her desk for an hour or so and, if there is no evening engagement, retires to her private rooms. The exception is Tuesday evening when the Prime Minister comes to the Palace at 6.30pm for his weekly audience.

Dinner, when there are no guests, is a relaxed affair for the Queen and Prince Philip who prefer to change into comfortable clothes rather than more formal wear.

For relaxation the Queen likes to watch television or complete jigsaw puzzles. But she often spends part of the evening working on her "boxes", the official despatch cases which contain Government and Commonwealth documents.

Because she has so much paperwork to look at during a normal day, she has developed a form of speed reading to scan pages.

The Queen is not a late-night person and is usually in bed by 11pm. However, she may decide to burn the midnight oil with some more reading.

Updated: 15:55 Monday, May 20, 2002