Beryl Carrington's memories of the Queen Mother

The reporter's perspective

"I remember several busy days I spent trotting behind those trim little high-heeled feet belonging to H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother as they tripped along over well manicured lawns, tussocks or parkland as she brought her own kind of charisma to a Royal visit in the area. She never did things by half to make her visit really worthwhile and she set a brisk pace as she led officials and the press corps on a comprehensive tour of the job in hand. She set her inimitable seal on many occasions as she twinkled her way around marquees, exhibitions and demonstrations, taking a lively interest in all and sundry."

Before her marriage in 1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (as she then was) was a Commissioner of Hertfordshire Girl Guides, and was a regular visitor to Hatfield House both before and after she became the Duchess of York. She was a regular visitor to the Hertfordshire Show and in later years to fetes and gala days held there.

In 1944 King George VI accompanied by the Queen and both Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret went to Clarence Park to inspect the Highland Division. The King took the salute at a march-past and dined in the officers' mess. Two years earlier he had come to inspect troops who had distinguished themselves in Flanders and France before the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940.

In happier times Queen Elizabeth attended the final performance of the St. Albans Millenary Pageant, 1948. Her visit to Verulamium was remembered by her and so many of spectators and performers for the rainbow which illuminated the final scene on the rain-soaked arena. My father, Harry Carrington, then Editor of the Herts Advertiser, interviewed her at St. Paul's Walden on her engagement, and no doubt met her at many county events. After 30 years she recognised him when she met him again at the Millenary Pageant and she made an old man very happy. That was her secret; she had the art of making people comfortable, wanted and happy-feeling which was so often sadly-lacking in life today.

Perhaps the happiest occasion was in 1961 when she visited St. Albans again during the mayoralty of Councillor Dr Elsie Toms and after signing the "Roll of Freeman" said that a visit to Hertfordshire was very much a return home, and to be in St. Albans, was, she felt to be amongst friends. Six years later she attended the first play performed at the new Abbey Theatre which was built for the Company of Ten, which was founded in 1934. In November 1977 she attended the final service at the end of the year entitled "Festalban" to commemorate one hundred years since the Diocese of St Albans was created and the Abbey given Cathedral status, in addition to the Borough becoming a City.

Several visits were made to Wheathampsted and to the Royal National Rose Society's gardens at Chiswell Green. In 1993 she was present for the re-hallowing of the shrine of St. Albans, which had been carefully taken apart and conserved whilst the site below was excavated by a team of archaeologists led by the Abbey's Honorary Archaeological Consultant - Professor Martin Biddle. This also involved the removal of a stone altar which had been on top of the shrine from the time it had been reconstructed in the 19th century but had been found to come from a different location within the Abbey.

One thing the Queen Mother could not stand was injustice: on one occasion she dished out a reprimand when an official was unpleasant to a press photographer. She said: "Please do not do that, we are old friends and we both have our own work to do".

Beryl remembered being treated to tea at Clarence House with Sir Martin Gilliat when she and Robert Richardson presented a copy of their book about St. Albans. She was very diffident when she was honoured to become a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) for services to journalism. She died in March 2005 at home at 26 Church Crescent, the house she had lived in since 1922. She had lunch with her live-in companion and had gone into her kitchen before starting to wash-up when her heart simply gave up. That house had been the scene of many gatherings of family, Herts Advertiser staff, past and present, as well as her many friends all over the City. She began work for the H.A. in 1935 and never really retired.

Source: BJC's papers

This page was added by John Cox on 11/05/2012.

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