Dropped cheese and ‘alarming speed’: politicians and royal staff remember Queen

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/WhVPGrC3rPcMT36MFJnsPA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3NjtjZj13ZWJw/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/lyCvh4vwz1IBwjm78UFzwg–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/9fd2a256a0678c0906f283d8f3731968&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Former prime ministers, current MPs and peers have shared stories about their humorous encounters with Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

In parliament on Friday, MPs shared their personal experiences of meeting the Queen.

Theresa May recalled a picnic at Balmoral, detailing how she employed the three-second rule with some cheese she dropped on the ground.

“I had a split-second decision to make,” May said, admitting she returned the cheese to the table.

MPs burst out laughing when she added: “I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her.

“She looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table.”

May’s successor, Boris Johnson, who was replaced as prime minister on Tuesday, told the Commons of the Queen’s “humility” and “refusal to be grand”.

He said: “Unlike us politicians, with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys, I can tell you as a direct eyewitness that she drove herself in her own car with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape to the total amazement of the ramblers and the tourists we encountered.”

As peers paid their respects at Westminster, the former Labour cabinet minister Lord Blunkett recalled how the Queen came to his aid after he ended up facing the wrong way as he knelt during a royal audience.

The peer, who is blind, recounted how the incident occurred during his induction as a member of the privy council, which advises the monarch, and how she had helped “shift me round”.

Blunkett, who has a guide dog, spoke about how he had been “quite nervous” before the ceremony 25 years ago.

He said: “Dogs aren’t very good at showing you where to kneel on cushions. They are brilliant at all kinds of other things but that isn’t one of them.

“So I left the dog with [then Labour cabinet colleague] Jack Straw and I moved across the room and I did manage to hit the cushion, but facing the wrong way.

“Her Majesty in a gracious and careful and never patronising way managed to gently – by touching my arm – shift me round so that I could just brush her hand.”

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, recalled sitting next to the Queen at a lunch in Kingston, south-west London, during her golden jubilee celebrations in 2002.

The MP for Kingston and Surbiton said: “I was initially confused by a silver cylinder beside her place setting.

“I wondered to myself what treasures it might hold. I had my suspicions when, as dessert was served, her beloved corgis were let in, and nestled themselves round her feet.

“The Queen lifted up the lid of the cylinder, plucked out some digestive biscuits, and began sneaking them to her grateful dogs.”

During the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations in June, former protection officer Richard Griffin recounted a story about two American tourists failing to recognise the Queen after they met her walking in the grounds of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.

During the interview with Sky News, which has been recirculating on social media following the monarch’s death, Griffin said: “There were two hikers coming towards us and the Queen would always stop and say hello.

“It was two Americans on a walking holiday and it was clear they hadn’t recognised her, which was fine.

“The American man asked her if she lived in the area, to which she replied that she did indeed have a house nearby.

“She said that she lived in London but had a house just over the hill, and he asked how often she had been coming up here.

“She said she’d been coming up for more than 80 years and you could see the cogs were ticking. He said: ‘Well if you’ve been coming up here for 80 years, you must have met the Queen?’

“As quick as a flash, she said ‘Well I haven’t but Dick here meets her regularly.’”

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