4:02pm 10/09/2022
When the queen pops in for tea: Elizabeth’s public interactions

LONDON: During her long life of public duty and protocol, Queen Elizabeth II occasionally shared in her subjects’ ordinary lives — often during sneaked or staged encounters.

Here are some of the best-known examples:

Princess goes incognito

As a 19-year-old princess, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret sneaked out of Buckingham Palace to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945, mingling anonymously among the jubilant crowd.

In a BBC program in 1985 she said they had walked for miles through the streets of London, wary that they would be recognized.

“I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief,” she said.

The sisters then returned to the palace and joined in the chant of “We want the king” with the masses of people gathered outside waiting to see her father and mother, George VI and queen Elizabeth, come out onto the balcony to greet the crowd.

As Princess Elizabeth, the Queen served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.

Riding the Underground

Queen Elizabeth entered the London Underground on six occasions, starting with a first trip in 1939.

On March 7, 1969, she rode the Underground for a second time to inaugurate a new stretch of the network.

“On arrival at Green Park station, where she had to buy her ticket, the queen slipped a six penny piece into a ticket machine, but it rejected the coin. A second attempt also failed,” AFP wrote.

Queen Elizabeth “traveled a short distance in the driver’s compartment, alongside the driver, who thus lived his moment of glory at the age of 63, after 34 years of service.”

In one of her rare forays into the lives of ordinary people, Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated a new stretch of the London Underground in March 1969.

Royal golden arches

After the death of the hugely popular princess Diana in 1997, the royal family launched a drive to meet “ordinary” people following public shock at the monarch’s apparent coldness at the time of the tragedy.

She popped into a McDonald’s restaurant in northwest England, toured a trainer store, admitted to schoolchildren her fondness for television soap operas, and visited a pub.

A lover of afternoon tea in her royal residences, in July 1999 she stopped to enjoy a cuppa and a chat with a Glasgow housewife at one of the Scottish city’s least salubrious housing estates.

Photographs of the visit, featuring the queen perched straight-backed at the tea-table in fuchsia hat and suit chatting to a smartly dressed Susan McCarron, were splashed across the press.

According to McCarron, Queen Elizabeth was perfectly at ease as she helped herself to tea, but no chocolate biscuits, and chatted away for 15 minutes.

“I found her very easy to talk to,” said McCarron, who laid on the best china for the occasion.

The queen regularly interacted with the public, including in 1999 when she sat down for tea with Scottish housewife Susan McCarron.

Lockdown chats

Elizabeth moved to Windsor Castle from Buckingham Palace with her husband, Prince Philip, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, self-isolating in what was dubbed the “HMS Bubble.”

In June 2020, she made her debut on a digital platform, joining a video-conference call to speak with carers and discuss how they had coped with the outbreak.

Her daughter, Princess Anne, also logged on in what became a regular form of communication for the royals during lockdown restrictions.

Alexandra Atkins, who was looking after her mother, father and grandmother, said it was “just unreal” to see the royals on the call.

“It hit me that I was sitting in my bedroom talking to the princess royal (Anne) and the queen,” she said.


Queen Elizabeth II


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