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Tags: charles | philip | uk

John Browne: Some Personal Memories of a Great Queen

hm queen elizabeth ii of england and hrh prince philip

HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Phillip in The Mall, in 2016. (Arthur C. James/Dreamstime.com) 

By    |   Saturday, 10 September 2022 11:00 AM EDT

On April 21, 1947, I remember clearly, as a scruffy prep-school boy, listening on a crackling wireless set to HRH The Princess Elizabeth give her epic 21st Birthday speech from South Africa.

HM King George VI had taken his family on the maiden voyage of HMS Vanguard. Displacing some 52,500 tones, 814.3 feet long and capable of 30 knots.

She was England’s grandest ever battleship.

On Feb. 6, 1952, as a slightly less scruffy schoolboy and still in shorts, I remember vividly being ushered into the IV form room to listen to a memorable wireless broadcast.

It began, "This is London calling the World. The King is dead! Long live the Queen! …". Never, for a moment did I dream that I would ever meet her, let alone dance with her.

Almost exactly 10 years later, our second Grenadier Guards battalion returned from Cyprus and Germany. We gave a reception for The Queen in the officers’ mess of Wellington Barracks, adjacent to Buckingham palace.

On being presented, I was impressed mightily not only by The Queen’s beauty, but by her extreme radiancy. It was awe inspiring. With one exception, I never witnessed its like again.

As a young Grenadier officer on London duties, I had the odd, wonderful brush with the Royal Family, including escorting the young The Prince Charles, now our King and his sister, The Princess Anne, to the Royal Tournament. HM The Queen and HRH The Prince Philip also attended our Regimental dinners and talked to almost all officers present in relaxed surroundings. Our Colonel, Prince Philip, visited our Grenadier battalions regularly, in such places as Afghanistan and was most highly regarded by the men.

One memorable day, General Claude Pert (formerly, Probyn’s Horse and who’s voice was to Polo like John Allott’s was to cricket), informed me that I had been invited to join Prince Philip’s low and medium goal polo teams for the season.

Not only did this result in the greatest fun and thrilling polo, but it opened a more informal access to the Royal Family, with Prince Charles playing in the team, when down from Cambridge. The Queen watched often, even our practice games.

This resulted in some relaxed conversations in the pony lines, at post-match pavilion tea parties and even private dances at Windsor Castle.

As the Member of Parliament for Winchester, I was invited to the ad portas ceremony for The Queen who came to celebrate the 600-year anniversary of what is the oldest and arguably academically the finest school in the world, where the sixth form speak still in Latin! My then wife and I were standing in the covered arch of the main gate with other so-called dignitaries.

The attack on the Falkland Islands was rumored imminent and The Queen’s son, Prince Andrew, was on active service there. After the presentation, I turned to my wife and said, "From the look The Queen gave me, I think the attack is going in very, very soon."

It proved to be so.

Apologizing for her pronunciation, The Queen gave her speech to the assembled school in Latin! Together with many others, I understood not a word, but the boys laughed a lot in the right places and loved the gesture.

After Elizabeth II’s tour of the school, the reception party were invited up to the Warden’s apartments for coffee and biscuits. The room was ancient with cracks between the floorboards so wide that electric light could be seen in places form two floors below!

(Almost 640 years ago, when he was dying, the school’s founder. Bishop Wykeham, gave his even then ancient, bishop’s ring to the school’s Warden, rather tn leaving it to his successor as bishop,) The Queen asked the Warden, "May I see 'The'Ring"

On returning it, the ring dropped, threatening loss between the floorboards.

The Queen raised her voice saying, "We’ve dropped the ring! Please crouch down very gently and try to find it." Everyone was aghast at the possible loss of this ancient treasure.

Setting a fine example, The Queen put her coffee cup down and very slowly put her hands on her knees and scanned the area around her feet. Everyone was extremely tense.

Suddenly, a man near The Queen exclaimed, "Here it is!" Still kneeling in front of The Queen, he handed it to her adding, with a smile, "But rightfully, Ma’am, it should be mine!" He was the then current Bishop of Winchester, dressed in his purple cassock!

Such events make goose pimples rise on necks.

In later years, I took a small party of friends, including some former Harvard classmates, to a polo dinner-dance at Windsor Castle. I can’t imagine why, but I was given a very good table. Quiet how good, I realized only when one of my quests leant over to whisper in my ear, "John did you see, Helen Mirren. She’s sittings at the next-door table behind you."

I looked round behind me and turned back to say, "That’s not Helen, It’s the Queen!"

My guests were spellbound and suitably impressed, if not thrilled.

The death yesterday, of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, had been expected for some time, but the actual event was a shock, and has caused very great grief and a deep sense of uncertainty at the loss of someone very, very special.

Queen Elizabeth was an icon of impeccable behavior, wisdom and charm who clearly dedicated her whole life to God, her people and humanity.

Probably the most photographed person in history, she was not merely respected, but revered highly and loved dearly, by people throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and much of the world, including tens of millions in the United States of America, which she loved.

I estimate the total at over three billion people.

I believe that her impeccable record of grace, patriotism, and humanity deserve worldwide recognition and that a suitable accolade would be very well received by billions of people.

Therefore, I have proposed, before and now again, that she be titled henceforth officially as: Elizabeth the Great. 

John Browne is a distinguished former member of Britain's Parliament. He served on the Treasury Select Committee, as chairman of the Conservative Small Business Committee. He was also a close associate of former-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

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Politics
Probably the most photographed person in history, she was not merely respected, but revered highly and loved dearly by much of the world. Her impeccable record of grace, patriotism, and humanity deserve worldwide recognition.
charles, philip, uk
1044
2022-00-10
Saturday, 10 September 2022 11:00 AM
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