The news this week has been dominated by the period of mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. As a school, we have continued with our normal programme as far as possible, with the exception of Monday for the funeral.
I was fortunate enough to visit Buckingham Palace back in the days before it was open for tourists to visit. At the time, my Godmother was working as a secretary to The Queen, and so we were brought in through the main gates, and taken up into the Palace, into a very grand waiting room, much to the interest of those who were looking through the railings at the royal residence. My Godmother ended up as the senior correspondence secretary and ended up going to Balmoral to accompany the royal party on several occasions. She was always guarded about revealing any personal details, but was close enough to The Queen that she was asked to return, after retirement, to help with the organisation of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. My Godmother, who had retired happily down to the South West, turned down the request, recognising how exhausting the demands would be!
I also met Her Majesty when I was working at Stowe, when she came to open Queen's House, a new girls' boarding house. During this visit, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were introduced to various groups of people who worked at the school. The logistics of this were pretty complex, as we gathered in groups of seven, with one person nominated to introduce the others to the royals. In seven minutes, between them, they met 140 people! At the end of this, they had to move on to the next stage of the visit, but the Duke had stopped to talk to someone who had caught his interest, and The Queen had to call out to hurry him up.
Of course, the strongest memory I have is of the wonderful visit to Felsted in 2014, as we celebrated our 450th anniversary of the foundation of the school. We were a little nervous, as the school that had educated the children of Oliver Cromwell, that our standing with the royals might not be as good as we would have hoped! Instead, the personal interest in the pupils that they met, the smiles and warmth that they showed, and the remarkable presence really stood out. I will remember The Queen's incredible service to others, her sense of duty, and the hard work that she continued to put in to the role right up until the very end. If her legacy could be that we all take forward these values into our own lives, then we will be remembering her in the best possible way.
Head, Felsted School