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And the second great, related, contrast is that between the near unceasing whirl of his public life, and a degree of solitude in his private. Of course there was family, though all his sisters pre-deceased him. But few, if any, great friendships are recorded, a corollary of his private nature and the pattern of his many decades. “Life,” wrote one biographer, “hasn’t enabled him to build up friendships. He is going round the world at such a lick.” And royalty is its own curious cage, repelling outsiders. “What the royal family offers you is friendliness,” said the late James Callaghan, prime minister in the 1970s, “not friendship.”

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