Monday 6 June 2022

Afternoon tea with the Queen

- what could possibly go wrong?

The skit with Her Majesty and Paddington bear is funny but it is also there to teach us something - to laugh at ourselves and to accept others for who and what they are.

Paddington is a bear of course. In the skit he has absolutely no idea how to behave as most humans would behave when having afternoon tea with the Queen. Her Majesty takes it all very calmly of course. In actual life she would probably say, "How very amusing" and leave it at that.

Going to the Palace is a very strange experience. I went there once. I did not go in "the front door". There is a sort of side entrance and the person who came to get me took me in through there and along what seemed like a maze of corridors, up steps and through doors. I was feeling much too nervous to notice any of this properly. 

I was not going to meet the Queen but the Queen Mother. She had invited me to afternoon tea. It should have been at Clarence House but "there are workmen doing something there dear so it will have to be the big house". 

And there was the Queen Mother in a perfectly ordinary sort of sitting room. I don't remember a lot about it but we sat at a small table and I showed her what she wanted to know about. I answered her questions and worried - for nothing. The Queen Mother was an absolute delightful person. She was genuinely interested in what I was doing but, even more than that, she was very thoughtful. 

"I have a surprise for you. I am sure it will be a pleasant one."

We had been talking for about fifteen minutes when there was, "It's all right. I'm expected". 

Princess Diana came in with a very young Prince William in her arms. She greeted her grandmother-in-law and then me. I had not seen her since her marriage although I had seen her quite a number of times during the course of some of the work the Queen Mother had been asking me about. Seeing her was like seeing an old friend and indeed I was greeted like one.

Afternoon tea arrived at almost the same time. Nobody served it to us. At the Queen Mother's request Princess Diana passed Prince William over to me to hold and poured the tea. I stayed longer than I had been told to expect after, "Must you go just yet?" Of course not. You do as you are asked by such people.

But, while there was that expectation about it, there was also a sense of the Queen Mother being an intelligent, very normal and down to earth sort of person.  What was extraordinary was that she could put me at ease and that she had taken the trouble to see someone I knew was there to help with that.

It is extremely unlikely that I will ever meet Prince William again but, if the opportunity arose, I would like to tell him what I believe makes his family so special. It isn't being "royal". It is being thoughtful.

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