THERE was the public Queen we all knew. Then there was the real Queen, the private woman who I caught a glimpse of for eight seconds two decades ago.
Anticipation was high. The crowd was out in force. Her Majesty, in the year of her Golden Jubilee, was making an unprecedented visit to Newport Leisure Centre.
The Welsh city was buzzing with anticipation as the Royal Bentley drew up outside the historic building, opened in 1985, previously host to gigs by The Smiths, David Bowie and Megadeth.
The car’s door was opened and Queen Elizabeth herself stepped out, as if in slow motion, the sheer historic gravity of the event overwhelming the audience who fell at once into silence as every detail of the most important moment in all their lives was engraved forever on their minds.
Graciously but emphatically, she walked within no more than six feet of me. The extraordinary presence of royalty was for the first time within lunging distance.
And, as the crowd roared with spontaneous joy, our eyes met. Her twinkling orbs at once disarmed and reassured me and seemed to say ‘What a lot of fuss! But isn’t it right? Am I not simultaneously your servant and much, much better than you, a mere subject?’
Our very real connection lasted but a split-second, but I have remained humbled and exalted by it on every day of the two decades since. I tell the story frequently and feel sure the Queen did too.
That is my account of the Queen Elizabeth I knew. It proves, without possibility of contradiction, how wonderful, unique and treasured she was. And the same goes for her eldest son.