THE DAY I GAVE THE QUEEN A RIGHT EARFUL!

THE QUEEN IS DEAD!  LONG LIVE THE KING!!!

Her Majesty died today. Amongst the torrent of ink that will be spilt I can add only my all too brief personal recollections.

I was fortunate to be in her presence during two summer garden parties out behind the palace and at one Diplomatic Ball  in the Buck House ballroom.  And yes, I did get to tip my gray top hat to her once at Royal Ascot.

LADIES DAY, ROYAL ASCOT

(Besides acknowledging the Queen, another thrill that day was getting to talk with American royalty,  jockey legend,  William Shoemaker, aka “Willie Da Shoe”, as I wished him luck and a good ride in the paddock parade!! Sadly, he was only two years from riding a wheelchair for the rest of his life.) 

However my closest encounter with the sovereign came when I was fortunate to be the only official Canadian representative at the grand opening of London’s new inner city airport in the old Docklands, out near my old haunts in the East End. The Queen and I were VIP guests of honour of the airport’s general contractor, Mowlems.

CHAIRMAN OF MOWLEMS GIVES QEII A FLORAL BOUQUET

 

THE DAY I GAVE THE QUEEN A RIGHT EARFUL

(and I do mean “right!!”)

November 5, 1987

Representing the senior Dominion, I was given pride of place to the immediate right from Her Majesty during the official ceremonies.  No one in our dignitary line, which was at right angles to the Queen’s chair,  was closer!  To my immediate right sat Her Majesty’s Lady in Waiting, and past her sat several High Commissioners of the Commonwealth. The London Symphony Orchestra serenaded us  from the lobby below alongside a few thousand  standing guests. I felt that the universe was finally unfolding as it should……after all it was my birthday!!

Ceremonies started with the arrival of the Queen and as she was seated in front of me, the LSO struck up the music to “God Save the Queen” and we all rose to sing with gusto. In the excitement of the moment, no one more so than myself!  At a distance of  about no more than  4 feet from my lips to her right ear, I belted out perhaps the worst rendition of that anthem that the Queen had ever heard!! Poor soul! I must have even drowned out the LSO! If she was not amused she did not show it. However she did manage a couple of quick, quizzical glances my way. (“Like who is this bearded idiot beside me??!!….and could someone tell him to pipe down!!”).  Thankfully, she graciously  and stoically endured my enthusiasm  which had  apparently won out over the irritation of my vocal limitations!! 

Later the Queen and I  were ushered out on to a balcony to watch a flypast of two Canadian deHavilland Dash 7 aircraft, the only plane authorised at that time for the short takeoff and landing restrictions of the new airport. Hence our priority in the overall celebrations. 

What a way to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day! With the Monarch herself!!

Later that night I received an excited phone call from my dear old East End landlady of yesteryear, Ada ( a Queen in her own right in my estimation!).

“What were YOU doing sitting beside the Queen??”

(Having personally observed my limitations close up for the better part of a year, she could be  forgiven for having had low expectations of my life’s outcome!)

  The Queen and I had made the BBC nightly news!

(Note the small piece of aluminium foil on the floor which had fallen off the stem of the Queen’s bouquet. I discreetly picked it up later and it was kept by my mother for several decades until her death last year at 101.)

WE WILL NOT SEE HER LIKE AGAIN!

WHAT A BEAUTY!!

(Let me say it just once more, this time in hushed reverence and far out of royal earshot!!):

“GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!”

MAY SHE REST IN PEACE!!!

AVE ATQUE VALE

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