The Queen couldn’t possibly remember all the people she met – but no one ever forgot to meet her | british news

For almost everyone, the Queen has always been a part of our lives. Now that she’s gone, we evoke personal memories of her.

I’ve met the Queen. My justification for writing about it here is that our meetings were in the context of my duty as a political correspondent and that I am the only reporter in her long reign to ever “kick out” the Queen to get her to talk, she briefly on a matter of policy.

I was covering the CHOGM – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – in Vancouver in 1987, when the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth, was walking around the media center.

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I asked what the rules were and was told there were no camera lights but please talk to her.

So when she came to our editing booth, I said hello and then realized she was pausing for more conversation, so I asked about the story I was working on. It all takes 19 seconds.

AB: Are you looking forward to the top at all?

HMQ: Yes, it will be very interesting. Pretty busy.

AB: Are you worried about Fiji, Sri Lanka?

HMQ: Well, yes, I find it very sad, yes. Very sad.

AB: Him [referring to Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney escorting her] thinks you have another statement on this subject.

HMQ: I know, [nodding and smiling] we’ve all heard that.

AB: Is it true?

HMQ: Ah-hah! [turns to leave]

MULRONEY: No comment [smiling]

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.  Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke looks on, on the left, along with Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida, and Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, on the far right.  The occasion was a meeting of the High Level Appraisal Group in Harare, Zimbabwe, on October 15, 1991. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
Image:
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1991. Photo: AP

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It was never my intention to get a scoop. I checked to see if we could run the camera because I thought my bosses at TV-am would like to see the monarch visit the team.

But the footage made headlines around the world and ran the BBC and ITV evening news, even though I worked for breakfast television.

There were few consequences for my lèse majesté. I was not beheaded.

The Queen’s press secretary drawled: “We knew it would happen one day. We’re just sorry it was one of us.”

I continued to receive invitations – or rather “commands” in the case of the Queen – to attend official functions.

You are not allowed to stroll in the back at these receptions.

The royal flunkeys keep an eye out to make sure all the guests talk to the queen.

So at the next CHOGM in Malaysia I found myself on the deck of the royal yacht Britannia and confessed my insolence.

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The Queen’s Life

“Oh, it was you!” the Queen remarked with a smile before continuing with polite talk.

The invitations kept coming, including to a memorable post-Diana “re-set” reception for the British media at Windsor Castle.

Despite the media’s apparent distaste for Prince Charles and Prince William, the royal company has worked hard to maintain cordial relations with “opinion-formers”.

The Queen gave no interviews, but she was a welcoming host off the record.

At a similar tech event in London, Kay Burley introduced the Queen to the wonders of the electronic program guide Sky.

The hapless John Major was locked in parallel negotiations with the EU when the Queen ordered our presence in Edinburgh.

File photo dated 9/6/1999 of former Prime Minister John Major receiving the Companion of Honor from the Queen, at Buckingham Palace in London.  Release date: Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Image:
Former Prime Minister John Major and the Queen in 1999

The Prime Minister’s timetable ruled out cocktail o’clock drinks. Instead we were ordered to Holyrood Palace for morning coffee.

The earliness of the hour didn’t stop Princess Anne from turning on the charm for the hacks, and Prince Philip chimed in with his characteristic bluntness.

Fittingly, the Queen’s last public office was a political one and one of her most important functions was as head of state overseeing the transfer of power between heads of government – the chief executives to her chairmanship of the British plc board.

She called out both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to Balmoral for the “kissing hands”.

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It must have been a chastisement for both prime ministers.

Boris Johnson because the Queen had witnessed the shameful departure of the Prime Minister she first met as a rambunctious young man and who had misled her with his advice.

Liz Truss for cutting her teeth as a young Liberal Democrat and calling for an end to the monarchy. Elizabeth II lived to put them both in their place.

The Queen can’t possibly remember all the people she’s met – in the millions by some estimates. But no one ever forgets to meet the Queen.

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