In a society fixated with youth much attention has focused on Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and later William & Katherine. For the past several decades the main person holding the entire edifice of monarchy together has been content to surrender the limelight to the next generations as she continues to exercise all the prerogatives of her position.
Not too long ago it was rare for a member of the British royal family, other than the monarch, to have a visible public role. At times a royal was intentionally kept under wraps because of serious character flaws. Queen Victoria regularly sent family members out of the country to stop ruinous spending.
The queen regularly asks Prince Charles, William, or Princess Anne to stand in for her to give out awards and knighthoods, but she is the one who approves every recommendation.
Every public event done by the Windsors are performed representing the head of state. When a gift is given it is accepted on behalf of the queen to be held by the recipient for their lifetime, afterwards to become the property of Elizabeth II.
The next time the Duke or Duchess of Cambridge are met with frenzied adulation consider the person working mostly in their shadow allowing the show to go on one more time.