Stratford Press

Queen remembered as regal but friendly and caring

- Ilona Hanne

The Queen, says Bruce Thomson, was “so regal” in real life.

“I remember she was wearing an absolutely exquisite dress, and the moment she entered the room you knew it was a special moment.”

The room a young Bruce was watching her enter was Parliament, and it was a moment he says he will never forget.

Bruce is the son of David Spence Thomson, who served as a Stratford MP, and, when the Stratford seat was disestabli­shed, the MP for Taranaki, between 1963 and 1984.

“Dad was an MP, including serving time as Defence Minister, from the 1960s to his retirement in the 1980s. It’s a lifetime ago now, but I remember the Queen’s visits during that time.”

Bruce says his father secured Bruce a seat in an antechambe­r where he could watch the formal proceeding­s when the Queen entered Parliament.

In his private memoirs written for family friends, Bruce recalls the momentous occasion.

The antechambe­r was set up with three or four rows of seats down each long side of the room, with just enough room in the middle for a long narrow carpet down the middle, along which HM and all the HRHs would walk.

“Suddenly, the doors at one end were opened, and in walked the Queen, followed by Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.”

Despite having been given strict instructio­ns to bow heads or curtsy as the Queen walked past, Bruce recalls the excitement of the moment meant they forgot.

“We were all so amazed at the sight, we all just gawked, even though many of us tried a half-hearted attempt at curtsying or bowing.

“We must have all looked like today’s catch at the fishmonger, like rows of sardines with their mouths all agape. But I suppose the Queen, in all her splendour, is used to being stared at, as she serenely glided past in all her glorious majesty.”

It wasn’t the first time Bruce had come close to the Queen. He first saw her back when he was just 4 and the Queen and Prince Phillip visited Stratford in 1954.

“All I can remember, through the forest of grownups’ legs, was seeing a blob of white — that was the Queen, meeting all the important people in town, on a stage which they set up at one end of Broadway.”

That fleeting glimpse of a blob of white was just the first of many times Bruce and his family came close to the Queen, he says, recalling one special photo the family has that was given to his mother by the Queen herself.

“Mum was summoned into the royal presence, and the Queen, smiling at her, presented mum with a lovely signed portrait of herself and Prince Phillip — probably photograph­ed at Buckingham Palace.

“We still have that photo at home.”

Back to the “exquisite dress” — Bruce recalls the Queen wearing on one parliament­ary visit, he describes it in more detail in his memoirs.

“She was wearing a beautiful white or cream dress, embroidere­d with a diamond pattern of what looked like small sparkling diamonds — perhaps crystal glass beads. Over her shoulder, she wore the paleblue sash of the Order of the Garter.”

On Friday morning, Bruce happened to be awake early, and was watching the BBC when news of the Queen’s death broke.

“I had started watching at about 4am and, of course, it soon became clear something major was happening. It really is a historic moment. Personally, I do feel sad, she was a great woman, and an incredible monarch.”

Bruce says all his memories of the Queen, along with the stories he was told by his parents, carry a similar theme.

“She was someone who went out of her way to make others comfortabl­e in her presence. You knew she was the Queen, but she was very much a real person who truly cared.”

 ?? Photo / Ilona Hanne ?? Bruce Thomson with a photo of his father standing with the Queen, Prince Philip and the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III.
Photo / Ilona Hanne Bruce Thomson with a photo of his father standing with the Queen, Prince Philip and the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III.

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