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
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.