Twenty years ago, in 1992, when I was a mere 12 years old I was an avid member of the 14th Woodford Girl Guides and went on a summer camp to remember. Camp that year was to take place in the grounds of Windsor Castle and on Sunday we were to attend a church service as part of our Guiding duties.
The Queen, and some other members of the Royal family (the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew) were due to attend this service, too. Just in case she had time to see us, we had to ensure our uniforms were in pristine condition and our shoes polished to a mirror shine. It wasn't guaranteed, in fact we were told we may not see them at all. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos at all because it was not an official royal engagement, and in those days phone cameras were not around so I couldn't even sneak a picture. We were not even allowed to keep the service sheets from the church service.
Having camped out since Friday night, we were all a little dishevelled to say the least but our leader had us all spruced up in no time and repolishing our shoes. We had practised our curtseys and 'yes Ma'am's'. As we walked from our camp across the fields and into the church grounds, I remember thinking all the dew on the grass was going to ruin my hard work on shining my shoes.
We were all seated in church and the service began. Whispers that SHE was there circulated but no one could actually see her so I began to lower my hopes of a glimpse. After the service we were ushered out of the church and told to line up making a walkway for the royal guests to walk down if they wanted to. The Queen Mother was due to receive a gift from other guests at the service, for what I cannot remember, but it was a framed picture which she gracefully thanked them for and promptly passed it to her lady-in-waiting. I remember thinking it was quite rude to just accept a gift and then pass it onto someone else!
We clapped and waited to see if anyone would come to see us. Much to our surprise and excitement the Queen started to make her way down our walkway, stopping to talk to some of us randomly, closely followed by Prince Philip who also took the time to talk to us. The Queen stopped to talk to our leader Sue who stood behind the girl next to me, and I was surprised at how down to earth and normal she was. She directed her questions at the three of us, asked us how we were coping with the heat in our tents and expressed her dislike of bugs by waving her gloves saying "all these bloomin' wasps!"
Prince Philip stopped near me too and asked us if we had seen the bears in the woods near our camp. When we said we hadn't he said we should look out for their "deposits" first of all and then for the bears themselves. Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were otherwise engaged, talking to other people but we had met the Queen herself and that was enough.
Even though she is a patron of the Girl Guiding Association it is unusual for a Girl Guide or Brownie to meet the Queen whilst serving her. We all felt very privileged and lucky but most of all honoured that she took the time to come and talk to us, and be herself.