The strange story of “The Chuckle In The Palace” had an unlikely beginning. Though we lived in a tiny prairie town near the Manitoba Saskatchewan border, I was somehow picked to travel to London and meet the Queen! It was a major anniversary for the Church Army and the Canadian branch was sending a delegation to an International Gathering. The Queen had a long-standing role as ‘Patron’ of the Church Army and a visit to Buckingham Palace to meet her was on the schedule.
The strangeness of the tale does not end there. My son, David, was reading “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” and there discovered that the Queen like crossword puzzles. When the whole family drove me to the Winnipeg airport, David disappeared for a time and came back brandishing a Crossword magazine. “Give this to the Queen for me!” I shoved it into my carry-on luggage.
The day came and our bus pulled up in front of the Palace. We were ushered through the throng of tourists and through the iron gates into Buckingham Palace itself. We were arranged in a horseshoe greeting line and told that the Queen would walk the horseshoe and greet each of us. I was told by the Church Army fellow who was in charge of protocol not to give the Queen my son’s gift. It was inappropriate apparently! As the Queen entered and began to make her way around, I was deciding whether to heed those directions or honour my son’s wishes. I finally decided that I was unlikely to ever meet this protocol guy ever again, but I would have to face David and explain why I did not pass along his gift.
Finally, it was my turn to be introduced. As we shook hands I reached inside my suit pocket and presented her with the magazine. She was very gracious (just like the song we used to sing affirms). She passed it to her Lady-in -waiting and said, “I hope it is not too difficult.” The protocol people had told us we must not quote anything the Queen said privately to us, but I feel freed by her passing to share. In answer to her question, I broke yet another norm as I, touched her shoulder and replied, “The answers are in back.” We both chuckled. It gladdened my heart to bring a bit of laughter to her lips that day.
After the Gathering was over I flew the miles back to Manitoba and our humble Prairie existence, then one day another extraordinary event happened! Two letters from Buckingham Palace were in my mailbox at the Post Office. The post office employees had noticed and there was a bit of a buzz in the community.
One letter was addressed to me, and I ripped it open. It was from some Palace staff informing me that the Queen “commanded” to thank me for the thoughtful gift and that she would indeed enjoy the puzzles. The other was a letter to David informing the Queen “wished” her to thank him for his gift. I have often since joked with David that “his wish was my command.”
Today I ponder this unlikely tale and think fondly of the kind and gracious Queen who made a prairie tween feel so honoured. I admit that I am not a Monarchist, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this particular Royal.