Queen of the crop

At 93, Her Majesty re­mains ea­ger to carry out her cer­e­mo­nial duty with a smile on Cam­bridge visit

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Han­nah Fur­ness ROYAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

The Queen peers through the crop of wheat be­ing grown at the National In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­tural Botany just out­side Cam­bridge, which is celebratin­g its cen­te­nary. Her Majesty was asked to ‘su­per­vise’ the plant­ing of a tree, but in­sisted on wield­ing the cer­e­mo­nial shovel her­self after pass­ing her hand­bag to a lady-in-wait­ing.

SHE has a fair claim to have un­veiled more plaques, cut more rib­bons and planted more cer­e­mo­nial trees than any­one else on earth.

And at the age of 93, the Queen yes­ter­day proved she is not only still go­ing strong, but is positively en­thu­si­as­tic about her daily du­ties.

Of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to hand over her tree-plant­ing du­ties dur­ing a visit to Cam­bridge, the Queen of­fered a po­lite and smil­ing re­buke to tell her hosts: “No, no, I can still plant a tree.”

Wield­ing a spade with an ex­pe­ri­enced hand, she went on to shift soil on to a horn­beam sapling, re­mark­ing: “I don’t think I’ve ever planted one of these be­fore.”

The Queen had been visit­ing the National In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­tural Botany (NIAB) just out­side Cam­bridge, to cel­e­brate its cen­te­nary.

King Ge­orge V and Queen Mary, her grand­par­ents, planted a mul­berry tree on the site when they vis­ited on Oc­to­ber 14, 1921.

Given a tour by Tina Barsby, chief ex­ec­u­tive, the Queen was of­fered the chance to “su­per­vise” the cer­e­mo­nial plant­ing while chair­man Jim God­frey got his hands dirty.

Hand­ing her black Launer hand­bag to a lady-in-wait­ing, ask­ing “Can you take that? I can’t do both”, the Queen in­stead vol­un­teered to seize the spade for three loads of soil.

Af­ter­wards, as Ma­jor Nana Kofi Twu­masi-ankrah, her equerry, dis­creetly took away the spade, the Queen spoke with the grand­chil­dren of the in­sti­tute’s founder Lawrence Weaver who re­marked on the day “our grand­fa­ther and your grand­fa­ther” spent to­gether nearly 100 years ago.

There was a mo­ment of comic con­fu­sion, as the Queen re­marked “Ex­tra­or­di­nary isn’t it! That’s very in­ter­est­ing, yes” be­fore say­ing of the orig­i­nal tree: “I gather it died?”

“He died in 1930,” the younger Mr Weaver replied.

“No, the tree,” clar­i­fied the Queen. Told that Kath­leen Weaver had made a bowl out of the mul­berry wood for her to keep, the Queen said: “Yes, that was very kind of you.

“It’s very nice, we’re very grate­ful for that.”

Be­fore she left, and with a wry smile, the Queen ges­tured to the tree and con­ceded: “Some­body’s go­ing to have

‘She wasn’t sched­uled to plant the tree, it was just to su­per­vise the plant­ing… she ob­vi­ously wanted to do it’

to plant it prop­erly now.”

Speaking af­ter­wards, Dr Barsby said: “She wasn’t sched­uled to plant the tree, it was just to su­per­vise the plant­ing. But she handed her hand­bag to her some­one and seized the spade. “She ob­vi­ously wanted to do it.” The pair also dis­cussed English wine, a new crop for the NIAB, with the Queen say­ing she had some vines at Wind­sor.

“I told her that the of­fi­cial wine for the Ox­ford and Cam­bridge boat race was English sparkling rather than French cham­pagne, and that English wine was be­com­ing more pop­u­lar and much bet­ter,” Dr Barsby said.

“And she said I don’t ac­tu­ally drink wine my­self but I hear it’s very good.”

The Queen went on to have a pri­vate lunch at Queens’ Col­lege Univer­sity of Cam­bridge, where she is pa­tron, be­fore of­fi­cially open­ing a new fa­cil­ity for Bri­tain’s lead­ing heart and lung hospital, Royal Pap­worth Hospital.

1 2 3 The Queen hands her hand­bag to her lady-in­wait­ing and takes the spade from Jim God­frey to plant the sapling

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