I called home shortly after hearing the breaking news that Her Majesty the Queen had passed away. The good lady wife, Kathryn, who is caring for her aging father in a village just a short drive from the northern English city of Hull was too choked up to speak to me.
The following day, I touched base with Al Hilal’s managing director Ronnie Middleton who was visiting family back in the UK and he said that his wife, Joyce, was in tears too.
We were all rocked, at home and those of us Brits living and working abroad.
We loved the Queen and we will remember her.
Fortunately, I had the pleasure of meeting Her Majesty on two occasions.
One of the joys of being a journalist is that I have been blessed with the opportunity of mixing in circles I would never have dreamt of as a child growing up on a council estate in the East End of London.
During my time as community and campaigns editor of the Hull Daily Mail I was involved in the organising committee for the royal visit to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the city becoming a ‘kings-town’ … its actual title is Kingston upon Hull.
It was 1999 and as the world prepared to celebrate the upcoming new century, Hull decided to have its party a year early.
My job was to accompany the Duke of Edinburgh around the offices of the historic publication, it has been circulated in various guises since 1885.
It was a simple task and to make it easy for me, carpet panels had been lifted and replaced with bright red ones on the route we had to take.
The rehearsal went well but on the day my profoundly bad sense of direction got the better of me.
The late Duke had a tough persona, did not suffer fools gladly and had a reputation of not being a great fan of the media, so I was understandably nervous. The rumours were nonsense, we got on like a house on fire as soon as he spotted one of our rugby action images on the wall.
Hull FC had played arch-rivals Hull Kingston Rovers in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. Legend has it that one of the bridges leading out of the city sported a message requesting the last person out the city to switch off the lights.
As we chatted about sport we wandered off towards the office canteen and the Duke stopped me suddenly and said: “Stanley, do you think we should be following the red carpet?”
Later, at a special reception at the city council offices, I was introduced to Her Majesty the Queen. She asked me who I was and what I did for a living and I explained that today my job was to look after her husband and that I’d almost messed up doing that.
I explained that I had been worried about the Duke’s reputation but had found him absolutely charming and kind.
She laughed, sympathised with my red carpet mix-up and told me, with a smile, that the Duke ‘was not all bad’.
She knew, she loved him and now joins him in heaven.
A few years later, Kathryn and I were invited by Her Majesty to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
The cucumber sandwiches were sensational. The Royal Family members were warm and welcoming and the memory of the occasion will live in our hearts forever.
At that time, I was deputy editor of the Bristol Evening Post, later launched my own weekly publication The Clifton Chronicle and my business dealings and community endeavours in the city resulted in several meetings with His Highness The Prince of Wales.
He was charming and invited me to a reception at The Orchard Room, Highgrove House.
It is the family residence of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom.
We talked about families, communities, the environment and business matters. He was visionary, well informed and truly inspiring.
God Save the King.