Talking to the Queen: ‘I didn’t feel intimidated in the least bit’
An audience with the Queen came as a surprise for Parks superintendent Stephen Furbert during the monarch’s 2009 visit to Bermuda with her husband, Prince Philip.
Their tree planting at Government House, an almost obligatory ritual for a visiting dignitary, fell 56 years after the freshly crowned monarch first called on the island.
The royal couple’s chat with their assistant at the planting went on so long that the media and others, waiting behind a cordon, grew curious about the discussion.
Mr Furbert told The Royal Gazette yesterday he hadn’t known what to expect on the morning of November 26, the last day of the couple’s visit, when the Parks team tidied the Government House gardens and prepared the ceremonial shovels.
Two royal palms would be planted, one by the Queen and the other by Prince Philip, on the lower lawns.
Mr Furbert recalled that as the Queen and her entourage approached, “I hadn’t been given instructions on how to greet the Queen or whether to speak”.
After the Queen was photographed adding soil to the hole where the tree was already placed, she stepped towards Mr Furbert signalling she was finished.
“I said, `Your Majesty, I don’t know if you realised the history of the shovel’,” he said.
An inscribed plaque said it had been used by the Queen on the 24th of November, 1953 — almost exactly 56 years earlier.
Struck by her willingness to engage, Mr Furbert said she remarked it was in “such good condition”.
“A conversation started from there. She asked about the tree she had planted previously, and I was able to point out the couple of cedar trees.”
Prince Philip joined them, and the Queen asked about the history of the island’s cedar blight.
The Queen asked about the other ceremonial trees and commended Mr Furbert on the state of the grounds.
“As we talked, mostly about plants, I was surprised at how long she stayed and engaged in conversation,” Mr Furbert said.
“Everyone else was standing back, and none of them could hear us. At one point, she laughed.”
Once the royal couple moved on, Mr Furbert said reporters dashed over to find out what they had discussed.
“She was knowledgeable,” he added. “She either just remembered, or she had done her homework.
“She was likeable, very easy to talk to, asked questions. I didn’t feel intimidated in the least bit.”
Government House has one of the world’s most extensive collections of trees planted by dignitaries ranging from Haile Selassie I to Winston Churchill.
The now-departed Queen’s trees remain in its grounds, with a host of others from British and international royals.