MPs, former staff and well-wishers share their heartwarming anecdotes of the Queen

10 September 2022, 16:42 | Updated: 10 September 2022, 21:33

In the wake of the Queen's death on Thursday, MPs, former staffers and well-wishers shared heartwarming memories of the late monarch.
In the wake of the Queen's death on Thursday, MPs, former staffers and well-wishers shared heartwarming memories of the late monarch. . Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

In the wake of the Queen's death on Thursday, MPs, former staffers and well-wishers shared heartwarming memories of the late monarch.

The US tourists

Richard Griffin , one of the Queen's former protection officers, told Sky News about a time Her Majesty played a prank on two American tourists failed to recognise her while walking in Scotland.

He said: "Normally on these picnic sites you'll meet nobody. But there were two hikers coming towards us and the Queen would always stop and say hello. And it was two Americans on a walking holiday.

"It was clear from the moment we first stopped they hadn't recognised the Queen, which is fine.

"The American gentleman was telling the Queen where he came from, where they were going to next and where they'd been to in Britain.

"And I could see it coming and sure enough he said to Her Majesty, and 'where do you live?'

"And she said well I live in London but I've got a holiday home just the other side of the hills.

"He said 'how often have you been coming here?' 'Oh', she said, 'I've been coming up here ever since I was a little girl, so over 80 years.'

"He said 'well if you've been coming up here for 80 years you must have met the Queen'.

"As quick as a flash she said: 'Well I haven't, but Dickie here meets her regularly. The guy says to me, you've met the Queen? What's she like?'

"I said 'well she can be very cantankerous at times but she's got a lovely sense of humor'.

"The next thing I knew this guy comes around put his arm around my shoulder and before I see what was happening he gets his camera, gives it to the Queen and says 'can you take a picture?'

"Anyway we swapped places and I took a picture of them with the Queen, we never let on, and we waved goodbye and Her Majesty said to me 'I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he shows that to his friends in America'."

Read more: Live updates: King Charles formally declared new sovereign at Accession Council

The charging stallion

Actor and novelist Ian Ogilvy revealed the Queen had told him she was nearly killed by a charging stallion during a chance encounter during a polo match at Windsor.

He said he retired to a tent after become disenchanted with the polo which "just looked like a lot of people on horseback searching for their car keys."

"Then the Queen came in. Tweeds, headscarf, muddy wellington boots. Accompanied by what I assumed was an equerry," he said, adding that he turned away because he thought she "must be so sick of being stared at."

Moments later he was invited by the equerry for an audience with the Queen.

He wrote: "The Queen, who was smaller than I’d imagined her to be, smiled and said how nice it was to meet me.

"There was a slight pause - and I thought how this poor woman had spent her entire public life hearing of the experiences of others and never having the opportunity to relate any of her own; which is why I did what you’re told not to do, which is ask the Queen a question.

"For some reason I remembered the name of the horse she used to ride on ceremonial occasions, and I thought if there’s one thing the Queen likes, it’s horses.

"'I was wondering, ma’am - whatever happened to Bombardier?'"

"The porcelain china face lit up and the Wedgwood blue eyes sparkled. 'Oh - my goodness! Well, it’s funny you should ask, because I’ve just been to see him. He’s very old of course, but he lives here at Windsor, in his own field just half a mile away. I visit him every time I’m here and today was no different.

"'So I went into his field you see, and he came trotting over, as always, because we know each terribly well, of course - great old friends, in fact - and I always take him a carrot or an apple or something - and I was just giving it to him you see, when I heard this awful snorting and thumping noise and I looked up and there was this huge stallion charging at me! At full gallop!

"'I had no idea what he was doing in Bombardier’s field, but here he was, pounding towards me, and his eyes were all red and his ears were laid back and his enormous teeth were bared - just like this!' - (and here I claim to be one of the few commoners for whom the Queen has performed her homicidal horse routine) - 'and I knew without a shadow of doubt that he was going to kill me so I ran, quite literally ran, as fast as I could to the gate and got out just seconds before he attacked me and - well, the fact is - you very nearly lost your sovereign.'"

Read more: King Charles III takes oath at Accession Ceremony and says he will follow Queen's 'inspiring example'

The dropped cheese

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May reduced the whole House of Commons to laughter with a story about the Queen and some dropped cheese.

Maidenhead MP Mrs May said: "Her Majesty loved the countryside, and she was down to earth and a woman of common sense.

"I remember one picnic at Balmoral, which was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table.

"I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor. I had a split-second decision to make."

Mrs May paused as MPs burst into laughter, before adding: "I picked up the cheese, put it on the plate and put it on the table. I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen.

"I looked at her. She looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table."

Read more: Queen to be buried beside her husband, Prince Philip, at King George Memorial Chapel in Windsor

Carrots and coconuts

Conservative MP Duncan Baker told the Commons how the Queen likes to place a "special delivery" every Christmas.

The MP for North Norfolk was told by a delivery driver how one year he had "forgotten the Queen's special order and had to turn around to go back and get it himself".

Mr Baker told MPs he asked the driver what the order was, adding: "He (the driver) said, 'well, every year the Queen asks us to put on the side 10 carrots and two coconuts, halved, drilled and hung with some string.

"Well, of course I looked rather quizzical at this. I wondered how the royal family would share two coconuts all round the table for their Christmas lunch and eat it from a piece of string with the husk still around it.

"But of course, I was told that what the Queen likes to do is on the cold crisp morning of Christmas day itself, she steps out from her bedroom into her private garden to hang the coconut on a tree to then retire to her bedroom to watch the birds eat the coconut herself.

"And then I said 'what about these carrots?' 'Oh yes', he said 'they have to be particularly of a certain size, absolutely cylindrical so that they fit into the Queen's jacket'. 'Now what is going on with this', 'well, of course', he said, 'it's her special treat to the royal ponies'."

Read more: Queen to be buried beside her husband, Prince Philip, at King George Memorial Chapel in Windsor

Nick the neck

The Queen joked that she might "nick the neck" when knighting someone if she found them too irritating, according to a story recounted in the House of Commons.

Telling an anecdote while paying tribute to the late Queen in the Commons, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) said: "Even sceptics who came into her orbit became converts, like Kieron Gavan, mayor of Ealing in 2002 when she came to Gunnersbury Park for the Golden Jubilee.

"He said: 'I asked if she was ever tempted to take the head off while knighting with her sword someone she didn't like. She replied, it would be totally inappropriate, but she might nick the neck a tiny bit if it was one of those people she found really irritating.'

"He told me that she was charming, witty, smiley, utterly delightful company. Kieron said: 'I'm a republican, but I became a huge fan. If she ever stood for election I'd vote for her'."

Labour MP Luke Pollard, who is gay, made MPs laugh during his tribute, saying: "I've dated a lot of queens in my time, but I've only ever met the Queen once."

Read more: King Charles III delivers emotional tribute to 'darling mama' as he renews her promise of 'lifelong service'

Tea with the Queen (after being sacked)

Labour former Cabinet minister Harriet Harman said the relationship between the Queen and Parliament was never "just on paper".

Paying tribute to the Queen in the Commons, the Mother of the House told MPs: "After Labour won the election in 1997, I went up to the Palace where, like other new secretaries of state, she pointed me to the Privy Council and bestowed on me the seals of office.

"They are actual seals which are given to you, and you take back to your department to be locked in a safe but when just a year later I was sacked..."

"And the seals taken out of the safe and taken back to Buckingham Palace, my diary was empty, and my phone stopped ringing. My office was astonished to get a call from Buckingham Palace.

"No one else wanted to have anything to do with me, but the Queen wanted to see me.

"I was invited to take Queen take tea with the Queen for her to thank me for my service as Secretary of State."

She added: "My point is that the relationship between our Queen and Parliament and our Queen and Government was never just on paper, but was always active and always encouraging."

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