My View, Mel Hewitt: My close encounters with the Queen

Queen and Prince Philip Outside the Mansion House Doncaster 29 J
Queen and Prince Philip Outside the Mansion House Doncaster 29 J

There comes a time in every columnist’s life when the question of what to write about this week moves from gentle thoughts and a little research to blind panic when the muse resolutely refuses to fall upon you. What on earth are you going to write about??

After watching an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover on Sunday, I was tempted to pen a few lines about changes in social mores and the British class system over the last century. There was a rather tenuous family link as, like Mellors the lover mentioned in the title of the book, my great-grandfather was a gamekeeper.

When it comes down to it though I’ve never been a huge fan of Lawrence. I don’t know whether this is because I was forced to read The Rainbow for A Level English Lit.

Luckily rescue was close at hand as a chance viewing of a new film took me into much more fertile and topical territory column writing wise.

A Royal Night Out is a film inspired by VE night in 1945, when princesses Elizabeth and Margaret headed out incognito to join the crowds celebrating in the capital.

Although they were in reality apparently escorted by more than a dozen people, the film is fun and combines real events – such as the royal pair joining a conga line – with a charming ‘boy meets girl’ story.

Yesterday, our Queen, a pretty 19-year-old in the film, will have passed a remarkable milestone and become our longest reigning monarch – taking the title from her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Now, at the risk of alienating any royalists, I have to confess that I am not an ardent monarchist.

Even so, I have seen the Queen on a number of occasions over the last 50 years. These include her visit to Selby Abbey in 1969, leaving Downing Street after lunch with the Prime Minister in her Golden Jubilee year and in 1991 on a visit to our own Mansion House.

I was working at the Mansion House at the time and was a few feet away from the Queen when she was presented with two Paddington bears for the then young Princes William and Harry. I remember her saying ‘How very kind’ in the voice that has become so familiar to many of us through Christmas broadcasts and clever – though not always kind – mimics.

A Royal Night Out may have been more fiction than fact, but what it did convey to me was the Queen’s total sense of the duty and how rare the opportunity to be completely alone or free must have been, even in childhood.

I am as I’ve said more of a republican than monarchist, but I admit we have been blessed over the last 60 odd years with a woman who has never put a foot wrong and has dedicated her life to embodying everything we could wish a monarch to be.