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Since her teens, when she spent six years studying history and the intricacies of the British constitution under Henry Marten, vice provost of Eton College, Elizabeth has been conscientious about learning everything necessary to do her job well. As Queen, she has devoted several hours every day except on Christmas and Easter reviewing official government papers in her battered red leather dispatch boxes. Even while staying with close friends on weekends, she remains deskbound in the mornings. "Oh, must you, ma'am?" a hostess once inquired. "If I missed one once, I would never get it straight again," the Queen replied.
She is equally diligent about background briefings on people she meets and places she visits. For a trip to Kingston upon Hull three years ago, she was given 70 pages by the lord lieutenant of East Yorkshire, including a seating plan for a luncheon at the local guildhall. When she sat down at her table, she was well prepared to converse with a lollipop lady (a school crossing guard), an ambulance driver, an environmental community volunteer and the manager of the Hull City soccer team, who was surprised by the detail of her questions about the previous evening's win over Fulham and how the club was dealing with unruly crowds.
Under the guidance of longtime diplomat David Manning, chosen by the Queen as an adviser to William and his brother Harry, Kate has been preparing for royal duties by learning about British institutions and exploring charitable causes that she may take on as a patron. As the first future Queen to be a university graduate, with a degree in art history, Kate is likely to lend her support to arts organizations.
Kate shares the Queen's work ethic. For her first solo engagement, in October, she agreed to host a dinner for the charity In Kind Direct when Prince Charles had to bow out at the last minute. She crammed her research and impressed the guests with her knowledge of the charity's mission and activities.
4. Embrace the countryside and its pursuits
Such are the privileges of multiple home and castle ownership that every member of the royal family is imbued with country life from infancy. The Queen first stalked deer when she was 16, and she was crawling through the undergrowth in her mackintosh trousers until she was nearly 60. Balmoral and Sandringham, her estates in Scotland and Norfolk, not only provide what the Queen has described as "a place to hibernate for a bit when one leads such a very movable life," but they also keep the family anchored to the land and its rhythms as well as to the lives of people who work there. Once, while driving a Scottish cleric around Balmoral, the Queen suddenly shouted, "Hooray!" as they passed one of her gamekeepers walking with a young woman. Elizabeth explained that his wife had left him and that she was delighted he was out with a new girlfriend.