A Tribute: The Day I Met My Queen

Greeted by water-spouting fireboats, the resonating sounds of brass bands, The Royal Yacht Britannia, sailed through Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria harbor. A show of magnificence and splendor, ceremonial pageantry, coupled with welcome banners had been displayed with much affection by Her Majesty’s subjects.

The Royal Britannia, otherwise known as Her Majesty’s Floating Palace, had arrived in Hong Kong waters. Not a few days later, I would be visiting the ship to meet the Queen, in person.

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The pristine Royal Yacht Britannia, berthed in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, October, 1986. (Photo: Royalbritannia.co.uk)
The Shining Ship

It was a balmy day in late October, 1986. The sun peered through the occasional clouds that drifted across the blue Hong Kong sky. As I boarded the Britannia, I was apprehensive with a fluttery nervousness. I took a deep breath and silently followed our security guide up the gangplank of the Royal Yacht. The ship was shining, clean, pristine. The Queen was onboard, awaiting her guests for the day.

One would think there would be more activity on a vessel of this magnitude. But no, it was quiet and calm. It was well organized and serene, not stately or formal. Albeit the ship and surrounding areas were well guarded, but it didn’t feel that way.

Queen Elizabeth II listens to the Governor of Hong Kong Edward Youde during a welcoming ceremony at Hong Kong's City Hall on October 21, 1986. (Photograph: AFP/Fung Wai Ming, Timeout.com)
Looking for a Familiar Face

As I was ushered through the ship’s passageway and towards the living spaces, the gravity of this soon-to-be brief encounter weighed heavy. I tried to fixate a smile on my face, which was a greater challenge than I anticipated. I love to smile. But my mind was spinning. “My goodness, what am I doing here?!”  

As I am led towards the Queen’s drawing room by security personnel, there is little time to recover. A steward meets me at the entrance of her drawing room. I longed for a familiar face or a reassuring smile. But stewards don’t engage guests, presumably in an attempt to maintain a sense of formality. A momentary pause, and then I am allowed entry into the room.

The Royal Britannia’s drawing room. (Photo: Royalyachtbritannia.co.uk)

The décor was light, white, with clean lines – not contemporary and not traditional. Tastefully placed artwork filled the room, befitting a ship that served as home to the Queen, family and guests. I happened to notice a gallery of photos of the Royal family along one of the white walls. It was all so surreal.

The Smile of a Queen

And there she was. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II standing before me, as if she was waiting for me. She was dressed in a formal white evening gown, adorned in beautiful jewels, but most of all a radiant smile. The kind of smile that seems to glow, warming me, and relieving me of nervousness.

Instinctively, I find myself curtsying. It was my natural reflex to curtsy – an act of reverence that made me realize I was completely awestruck! I put my purse on my left arm, using my right hand to hold the side of my skirt, my head bowed down to the Sovereign.

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Proverbs 31:25:” She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

When I arose, looking up at her, it seemed as though her smile had broadened. The Queen extended her hand out to me. Our fingers touched ever so slightly, and I knew instinctively, I had met a woman, this beacon of light and immense power, whom I would admire for the rest of my life.

My nervousness was dispelled, as a calm came over me.

A Moment of Her Time

Mindful of the royal etiquette, I held my tongue. Her Majesty always speaks first. She calmy inquired, “Hello, how are you?” Then immediately invited me to sit down. I asked her how she was, and she replied, “Well!”

Much more at ease at this point, I expressed how wonderful it was to have her in Hong Kong. “I hope you will enjoy your visit.” All the while I am studying her face, expressions, smile and demeanor. I see a beautiful strength to her. Accessible and welcoming, I understood that I was in rarified company – the Queen giving me a few moments of her attention.

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Queen Elizabeth II in Hong Kong, October 21, 1986. (Photo: AFP, Timeout.com)

She was pleasant and graciously replied, “Thank you”. We shared pleasantries about her extended visit to China, particularly at such an optimistic point in Hong Kong’s history.

Recognizing that our few moments together would end quickly, I intently voiced my allegiance, “Your Majesty, it is a pleasure to be of service to you.” Insignificant, of course, to how she has served the Crown. She only smiled, big, broad, sincere.

Upon finishing our conversation, we stood together. I curtsied, and repeated “It was an honor to meet you, your Majesty.”

A Rare Photo

In a rare turn of events, I was allowed to take a photo with The Queen. More than simply a keepsake, I treasure it as a reminder of that special day.

a-young-queen-elizabeth
1 Peter 3:4: “You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”]

My encounter with the Queen was truly memorable. She was the epitome of hospitality. Her warmth completely put me at ease. Any service I offered the Queen would pale in comparison to the nearly half a century of her dedicated service to Hong Kong as Head of State.

A Special Connection

Yet, like many of us who are now mourning her passing, I felt I had my own unique connection with Her Majesty.

There are numerous buildings and structures in Hong Kong, still to this day, which bear her name. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Stadium, schools, and many others. However, most meaningful to me was, that during her visit in 1986, Her Majesty was responsible for laying the foundation stone for the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, now a cultural icon.

In 1992, I had the unique opportunity to participate in my first major project at the HKCEC. A month later, I celebrated my wedding reception with family and many friends in this renowned establishment.

It is these impressions and those of her love of hospitality, sharing meals together with a multitude of state visits or friends and family over the decades in service, that resonate most with me. I am still in awe of the exemplified extraordinary public service as a Seva Leader.

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In a remarkable gesture of hospitality, Queen Elizabeth sent invitations to White House staff members and their spouses for dinner at Buckingham Palace. (Photo: White House photographer Eric Draper, whitehouse.archives.gov)
My Tribute

Her unrivalled reign will long be recalled one of unsparing fidelity to her coronation vows.

I am deeply saddened to experience the loss of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. A graceful, kind, tenacious, steadfast leader with significant wisdom, who will be dearly missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family. May they find peace and comfort as they grieve the loss of Her Majesty. Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

As I left the ship that day, still somewhat awestruck and bewildered, I returned home as normal. There was no fanfare. I entered my house and tended to my children. I kept this experience close to my heart – not to be announced or glorified. It was my special encounter – one that would keep me grounded. If a Queen can serve so faithfully, so can I.

God Bless The Queen. May she rest in peace.

queen-elizabeth

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