Credit: Mark de Jong / Unsplash

In the summer of 1996, I was enjoying my summer of love. I was turning from boy to man at age 16, filled with dreams of what my future may hold.

I had been working part-time for my local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Cumbria. I’d often go in on the weekends to answer the phones, help presenters set up for their programs, and search through huge drawers of CDs for the music they wanted.

In the summer months, the station would take its outside broadcast truck out onto the road to various events all around the county. Cumbria is a very rural county of lush green fields, sheep, cattle, and sharp craggy hills, just as fellow Cumbrian and poet William Wordsworth once described.

This particular summer, I attended the famous Lowther Horse Driving Trials. We got there early and set up the outside broadcast truck. It was like a fifth wheel with a large pull-down stage. Throughout the day, various presenters would come by to do live broadcasts segments from the stage in front of the small crowd as they ambled between sheep pens, cow barns, and watching the horse trials.

This year, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was competing, as he often did, riding the rickety-looking traps pulled by a single horse around a rustic course through the countryside.

Late one afternoon, I was with a colleague in a lull between live broadcasts. We would man the area and casually hand out flyers and car stickers for the station.

As we stood there listening to the show coming through the speakers, we noticed a fleet of Range Rovers quickly pull up close to the exhibition tents containing cakes, pies, and arts and crafts made by locals for the fair.

I remember turning to my colleague and saying, “I wonder if that’s the Queen?” and, sure enough, moments later the car door opened and the unmistakable profile of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, stepped out and wandered into the nearest tent. 

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I looked at my colleague. He knew exactly what I was thinking. 

“You can’t!” he said. 

“I can!” I replied. 

And with that, I slowly wandered in the direction of the tent armed with flyers and car stickers.

Her Majesty spent longer in the tent than I was expecting, and, not wanting to attract the attention of her guards in tweed jackets, I continued handing out my materials, which were now dwindling. I started to hold them back, not wanting to run out.

Finally, my moment arrived. Her Majesty walked out of the tent and walked straight up to me. She was much shorter than I realized and was dressed pretty casually, wearing sunglasses and a scarf around her head.

My moment had arrived, and I ran with it. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I muttered as she looked at me a few feet away, “could I give you one of these?”

“What is it?” she replied. 

“It’s a BBC Radio Cumbria Car sticker and flyer,” I responded.

“Oh, thank you,” she said as she reached out her hand and accepted my gift before turning away, acknowledging the crowd of onlookers, and climbing back into her Range Rover.

As she drove away, I walked back to our trailer, feeling 10 feet tall. My colleague looked on in total shock.

My actions proudly made the dispatches of the internal BBC newsletter that month.

Now 42, I’ve never forgotten that moment when I met my monarch. Rest in Peace, Your Majesty. You were an inspiration to us all. Long live the King!

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