Points of Happy Memory
by Stephen Howarth

Waiting in my allotted place, I was alert
with anticipation for the planned
presentation of my latest book,
an industrial history, to my Queen.

She approached with her husband.
The chairman introduced me and at once
HM and I were studying together,
turning the pages seemingly for minutes,

so engaged that I forgot the vital timetable
until the chairman gently intervened:
“You may not know, but Her Majesty
has already read the book.”

Forgetting protocol, I simply said to her,
wide-eyed, “Have you really?”
No “Ma’am” or “Your Majesty,” but just as if
I were speaking to you with happy surprise.

“Oh yes,” she said, with that heart-stopping smile,
“It was very interesting.” The chairman added:
“That’s why she was able to ask so many
good questions when she was meeting the staff.”

She smiled again. They moved on together,
and I followed, thrilled. Several moments passed
before I became aware of someone behind me —
her husband the Duke… And I was in his way.

I stood aside to let him pass. “I’m sorry, sir —
didn’t realise you were there. I was just
entranced by Her Majesty.” He grinned.

“Don’t worry,” he answered. “So was I.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This is a photo of a framed photo under glass, and so its quality is low. I can’t give a credit because I have no knowledge of the photographer. This meeting occurred on 11 November 1997, Remembrance Day in the U.K. I don’t have the time in my diary but it was clearly afternoon, since the Queen and the Duke would both have been involved in commemorations nearby at The Cenotaph at 1100. And even though I’m a veteran myself (Navy), clearly for once I didn’t attend a ceremony, having this instead.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: From the moment Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September 2022, her heir and eldest son Prince Charles automatically became King. The official “Proclamation” declaring his succession was made by Garter King of Arms (head of the College of Heralds) David Vines White, from the balcony of St James’s Palace, in a short ceremony starting at 1100 hours on Saturday, 10 September 2022. The coronation will follow in due course. During the Proclamation, Garter King of Arms referred to “the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory,” reminding me of the meeting accurately described here. I found Her Majesty quite frankly adorable, and there was a bonus: the Duke’s quick-witted reply to me, a charming spontaneous memory of their first meeting many years before.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Howarth, a full-time independent author of history all his working life, also served in Britain’s Royal Naval Reserves for 12.5 years. After reluctant retirement from the Service as part of the “Peace Dividend” following the end of the Cold War, he was commissioned to write the official centenary of the RNR and was appointed an honorary Commander RNR by HM the Queen.