Published on: Thursday, 15 September 2022
Last updated: Monday, 4 September 2023
Meeting the Queen - a privilege and highlight
For Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia’s head of corporate affairs, meeting the Queen was a real privilege and highlight. He saw her at a Royal Garden Party in 2002 and then met and accompanied her on a train journey from Liverpool Street to Ipswich in 2006.
Reflecting on his personal memories of the Queen, Jonathan said: “She was a lovely, lively, fascinating person, genuinely interested in those she met and those around her, and with a real curiosity about how things worked. When I met her in person, it felt like she was really interested in the train journey and enjoyed travelling by train, which was consistent with other things you had read or seen about her.
“It was such a privilege to meet her – not the sort of thing you expect to happen at all. Meeting her was a real highlight and one of those occasions when you find someone who is very well-known is every bit as nice and fascinating as you thought they would be.”
Paying tribute to her, he said: “She was one of the most impressive monarchs this country’s ever seen, overseeing a period of remarkable change and providing leadership and public service that’s been unparalleled. She will be much missed and we value everything that she’s done for this country.”
The most noteworthy of Jonathan’s royal experiences was in November 2006, when the official advice came through that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were making a private visit to Suffolk and wished to travel by train from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich. It was agreed that the Royal couple would travel on the 17.00 from Liverpool Street to Norwich, which was a non-stop service to Ipswich. Half of a First Class carriage was set aside for the Queen and Duke and their party.
“The Queen came by road to platform 10 at Liverpool Street and we then greeted her as she boarded the train. I travelled on the train too. The Queen and Duke sat in one bay of four seats and I sat in another with the royal protection officers. Other members of the royal household and police/protection officers sat in the other bays. Tea and biscuits were served to the Queen and Duke at their table.”
As the train approached Ipswich, a royal protection officer told Jonathan he could let the Queen and Duke know they were nearing their destination. “I went and stood by them, introduced myself, and explained that we were almost at Ipswich. I enquired if they’d had a nice journey. Both replied and said yes. The Queen commented how quick the journey was. Prince Philip mentioned that it had been a long time since they’d travelled out of Liverpool Street, as they went more regularly out of Kings Cross, for journeys to Kings Lynn (and then on to Sandringham), and that it was nice change to come this way.”
The train arrived bang on time, going into platform 2 at Ipswich to enable the Queen and Duke to head straight off into a waiting private car. Jonathan, who was also on call for media enquiries that week, said: “Afterwards I was phoned by the local newspaper, by a very excited reporter who’d heard the Queen was on the 5pm train from London, because other passengers had seen her. I double checked with the royal protection officer before confirming the details and explaining that Her Majesty and the Duke had indeed travelled on that service.”
“I was also lucky enough to be invited to a royal garden party at Sandringham in July 2002, held as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. It was an event for people from all walks of life from across Norfolk. A colleague and I were invited as representatives of Anglia Railways. It was a glorious July evening in the grounds of Sandringham. Most people didn’t get to meet the Queen individually, but she went through the grounds and amongst all the assembled guests in an open top horse and carriage so everyone was able to see her quite close up.”
“I feel very fortunate to have met Her Majesty and attended the garden party. They were unforgettable experiences, involving someone who has played such a positive role in the life and history of our nation during her long reign.”