Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has been a steadfast, inspirational presence throughout my entire life.
I remember the day Her Majesty acceded the throne in 1952 on the death of her father George VI. As I was leaving my primary school in Gilwern in Breconshire, Wales I saw a billboard outside the newsagents saying KING DEAD – it was so stark, so unexpected and so sad.
A year later, I watched the new Queen’s coronation at my aunt’s house on a 12-inch black and white television and later on Pathe News in colour at the cinema in Abergavenny, the images indelibly imprinted in my memory but never dreaming that one day I would meet her.
Every year since, on Commonwealth Day, I have been privileged to attend the Commonwealth Day Reception, attended by HM The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and, in recent years, by King Charles III).”
In 1981 I was working at the Natural History Museum in London and had the privilege of meeting HM The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh who were there to celebrate the museum’s its centenary.
In 2004 I joined the Rotary Club of Windsor St George where the Duke of Edinburgh was an Honorary member and I met the Duke many times. In 2012, the year of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I was asked by the Windsor & Eton Society to help organise a fitting memorial in Windsor which was supported by Windsor Rotary clubs.
A competition was held and the winner was a 14 year old school girl who designed a sculpture comprising of 60 steel balls – one for each year of The Queen’s reign.
In October of that year, The Queen unveiled the sculpture in Windsor’s King Edward Court and I met her again. The Queen was delighted with the sculpture and it has become a focal point for photos for visitors to Windsor.
In 2013 I was appointed Rotary Representative to the Commonwealth and every year since, on Commonwealth Day, I have been privileged to attend the Commonwealth Day Reception, attended by HM The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and, in recent years, by King Charles III.
Rotary International recognised Her Majesty The Queen in December 2013 with the Rotary International Award of Honour to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.
I took the award to Buckingham Palace with Rotary International Director, Mike Webb, on behalf of Rotary International President Ron Burton.
Her Majesty The Queen, who graciously accepted the prestigious honour, has been a supporter of Rotary’s polio eradication and humanitarian programmes. She sent her good wishes for the year ahead to all Rotary club members in Great Britain and Ireland and throughout the Commonwealth and applauded Rotary for its polio eradication program and advocacy efforts.
Her message said: “I am pleased that Commonwealth governments are playing their part in tackling disease and improving health for all. Polio for example, used to cast its shadow across many countries and today, thanks to concerted international action, just a handful still need to eliminate polio.”