Plants prove a peren­nial gift for hard to buy for Queen

Dig­ni­taries don’t know what to give me, monarch tells At­ten­bor­ough in new con­ser­va­tion doc­u­men­tary

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Steve Bird

AS A head of state for more than 60 years, the Queen may well be con­sid­ered the woman who has ev­ery­thing when it comes to gifts.

Now Her Majesty has re­vealed that she sym­pa­thises with dig­ni­taries who have faced the tricky diplo­matic co­nun­drum of what to buy her.

In a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view with Sir David At­ten­bor­ough she ex­plains how peo­ple of­ten opt for the tried and trusted gift of a plant, al­beit in­vari­ably rare and new va­ri­eties.

As she strolls with the veteran nat­u­ral­ist through the gar­dens of Buckingham Palace talk­ing about her plans to cre­ate a global net­work of forests, she says: “I’ve been quite dif­fi­cult to give presents to, so they’ve said, ‘Oh, let’s give her a plant’.”

The pair, both 91, are filmed laughing after spot­ting a for­lorn look­ing sapling that has keeled over, at odds with the other­wise im­pec­ca­bly kept gar­dens. The Queen jokes: “That one we won’t look at. Some­one sat on it, I think.”

Dis­cussing a mul­berry tree planted in the early 1600s by James I with the aim of at­tract­ing silk­worms, the Queen says: “They chose the wrong va­ri­ety and so the silk­worms didn’t pro­duce any­thing, which was a great dis­ap­point­ment to him, I be­lieve.”

The trailer for the ITV pro­gramme The Queen’s Green Planet shows the pair dis­cussing her for­est project in­tended to help tackle cli­mate change.

The Queen’s Com­mon­wealth Canopy aims to cre­ate a net­work of for­est con­ser­va­tion projects across the 53 Com­mon­wealth coun­tries to mark her life­time of ser­vice. The monarch says she hopes the scheme could “change the cli­mate again”, which Sir David says would be a “won­der­ful legacy”.

The doc­u­men­tary also shows Prince Harry plant­ing trees in the Caribbean, and Prince Wil­liam and his fam­ily in Canada’s Great Bear Rain­for­est.

Pay­ing trib­ute to his grand­mother’s ef­forts for green causes, Prince Harry says: “I think I’m clos­ing in on my half cen­tury of trees planted, but I reckon the Queen is up in the thou­sands.”

The pro­gramme also fea­tures An­gelina Jolie, the Amer­i­can ac­tress, who is filmed work­ing on a con­ser­va­tion scheme she is run­ning with the Namib­ian gov­ern­ment. She de­scribes the Queen as “this lovely lady who cares about the fu­ture”.

A spokesman for ITV said: “In a rare op­por­tu­nity to see the Queen talk­ing in­for­mally to Sir David, the con­ver­sa­tion ranges from cli­mate change, to conkers and birth­day gifts.

“In the of­ten hu­mor­ous ex­change, the Queen reveals her pas­sion for na­ture and how the gar­den’s his­tory is in­ter­twined with that of her fam­ily, chart­ing the lives of her chil­dren but also delv­ing into the past of her great­great-grand­par­ents Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert.”

In the past, the Queen has re­ceived many gifts con­nected to horses dur­ing state vis­its. An ex­hi­bi­tion of state gifts last year showed how of­fi­cial gifts from Mon­go­lia, Mex­ico and Slove­nia all had an eques­trian theme.

The for­est project was orig­i­nally con­ceived by Frank Field, the veteran Labour MP. He claimed that re­peated at­tempts to get pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments to back a con­ser­va­tion project aimed at link­ing for­est projects across the Com­mon­wealth had failed.

He said “the Queen jumped at it,” adding how she recog­nised it had the po­ten­tial to pro­vide a “new pol­i­tics” for the Com­mon­wealth.

The Queen’s Green Planet is broad­cast on Mon­day April 16 at 9pm on ITV.

In an in­ter­view with Sir David At­ten­bor­ough, the Queen says that peo­ple want­ing to give her a present of­ten opt for a plant: “I’ve been quite dif­fi­cult to give presents to, so they’ve said, ‘Oh, let’s give her a plant.’” Her Majesty has also had her fair share of more un­usual gifts. The pres­i­dent of Cameroon gave the Queen an ele­phant named Jumbo in 1972. Jumbo was flown to Bri­tain, and even­tu­ally made his home at Whip­snade Zoo. In 1976, the pres­i­dent of Brazil went in­stead for quan­tity: two black swans, six tou­cans, two gi­ant anteaters, a sloth and an ar­madillo. More prac­ti­cally, Queens­land gave 500 cases of tinned pineap­ple for the Queen’s mar­riage in 1947. Her Majesty has al­ways been gen­er­ous in turn: at a time of ra­tioning, the pineap­ple was do­nated to schools and hos­pi­tals.

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