By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth was upbeat, recalled childhood memories, and shared her anguish over the war in Ukraine, says a Scottish clergyman who dined with the monarch just days before her death.
As Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields was invited last weekend to give a sermon at the local parish church Elizabeth usually attended while at Balmoral Castle.
She did not attend the service, but Greenshields dined and lunched with the monarch while there.
"She looked quite frail to begin with but she's 96 of course... but when she sat down and she started talking you knew you were in the presence of the queen," he told Reuters.
"She just had a remarkable ability to put you at ease and she really had done her homework. She knew who she was talking to... and had a phenomenally good memory for somebody of her age."
Those memories went back to dignitaries she had met, a horse she once owned and her childhood.
"I'm a minister in Dunfermline and she recalled that she owned a horse that was called Dunfermline many years ago, I think it was nearly 40 years ago... that had won some races for her," Greenshields said.
"She went back to her time when she was very young staying in Balmoral, spoke very warmly of her time with her father and her mother there... I remember asking her how many countries she had visited, she couldn't recall how many but she certainly then started talking about a wide range of people she had met across the world."
Elizabeth, Britain's longest-reigning monarch and a towering presence on the world stage for 70 years, died peacefully on Thursday afternoon after her health deteriorated.
Asked about the queen's mood during their meals, which were also attended by Princess Anne and others, Greenshields said: "Very upbeat, very engaged with everybody, asking everybody how they were doing... and making sure that everybody was being looked after and were at their ease."
The conversation also turned to the war in Ukraine.
"She spoke about how vexed she was about what was happening in Ukraine," Greenshields said. "Obviously somebody who lived through a war in Europe and to be seeing war in Europe again would be something that would be of huge concern to her."
Greenshields said he was surprised to hear about the queen's death.
"There was no indicator that there was anything really seriously wrong and she seemed, for her age, (to have) plenty of energy and she seemed very relaxed," he said.
"So to hear the news... shocking I think is a bad word to use but something of that ilk."
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)