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