First Bermudian ADC Alvin Daniels: the Queen was ‘very down to earth’
Among guests at yesterday’s proclamation ceremony of the King was the island’s first Black Bermudian aide-de-camp, who served as equerry, or assisting officer, to the Queen in her 1975 visit to Bermuda.
For Major Alvin Daniels, 76, the death of the Queen 18 months after the passing of her husband, Prince Philip, felt like losing a respected friend.
“It was a shock,” Major Daniels told The Royal Gazette. “It was almost like the loss of my older sister earlier this year — it was a deep, gut feeling of losing someone very special.”
He was appointed ADC in the wake of the assassination in March 1973 of Governor Sir Richard Sharples and his ADC, Welsh Guardsman Captain Hugh Sayers.
“The new Governor, Sir Edwin Leather, asked the Foreign Office if he could have a local ADC,” Major Daniels said. “As he said many times, the Foreign Office told him, ‘You’re the Governor. It’s in your purview as to who you want as ADC’.”
The appointment of the young Bermuda Regiment officer to the role in 1973 broke with centuries of tradition, as ADCs were normally brought by the Governor.
“I think there were two names put forward, and I got the nod,” Major Daniels said. “It was a bit outside the norm.
“It was a time when it was very unsettled, much like Covid. You didn’t know what was going to happen next. We’d had several murders.
“But I had been in the regiment for a number of years and I believed in being able to get on with the job. All my life I had to adapt and adjust and just do it.”
Life as an ADC meant living in Government House. Keen to return to his civilian job, Major Daniels had planned to finish up on the last day of 1974.
“Word came out of a royal visit coming in February 1975. Governor Leather was checking with Buckingham Palace about the Queen having a local equerry during the visit.
“The Queen always carried her own equerry. It hadn’t been done before but things just dropped in place.
“Word came back that the Queen would like to have a local equerry. I got the nod again.”
Major Daniels would be closely involved in the planning over the next two months, including briefings with officials from Buckingham Palace.
“Another monumental thing to have happened” is how he recalls it.
“My philosophy is, be prepared; you never know what’s going to happen. But those were some huge occurrences.”
Representing the regiment and Bermuda as well as himself and his family, Major Daniels had to ensure “everything was in order”.
The Queen and Prince Philip touched down at the airport on February 16, 1975, where Sir Edwin met them on the tarmac and presented Bermudian officials.
After the Queen inspected a Bermuda Regiment guard, the royal couple were driven to Government House in a Rolls-Royce.
Major Daniels was there to answer questions. The couple asked him about his life as well as inquiring about passing landmarks.
“Her Majesty and Prince Philip I found to be very down-to-earth people. They made me feel at home and comfortable.
“There was a reverence, where you think, ‘My goodness, this is the Queen’. But if you think too much, you never get anything done. The job has to be done, so get on with it.”
Major Daniels said Prince Philip asked what he did for a living, and Major Daniels replied that he had finished his appointment as ADC and was about to be unemployed.
“Several years later, I was invited to a function in the UK and I met the Prince again. He asked if I was gainfully employed yet. I didn’t know how he remembered!”
That night, at dinner in Government House, Major Daniels found himself reflecting on the surreality of dining with the Royal couple.
“How many people in the world have been able to sit at a dinner table of 12 people with the Queen and Prince Philip?”
Because of his service, Major Daniels was inducted into the Royal Victorian Order. The move is solely at the sovereign’s discretion.
As a result, Major Daniels has regularly attended the order’s special services of thanksgiving over the years, affording him the opportunity to see the Queen again and meet other members of the Royal Family.
Writing to the Queen’s secretary to attend the Trooping the Colour with his wife some years after the visit, Major Daniels and his spouse ended up with better seats than some high-ranking British officials.
He met the royal couple again for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the order in 1896 by Queen Victoria.
Major Daniels said he was “still trying to come to grips” with the Queen’s death. “I knew them on a personal basis. They knew me and remembered me from way back.
“I knew them as being very kind, very attentive and very genuine people.”
At early meetings of the order, Major Daniels was among few people of colour.
But he said the gatherings had diversified over the years — with the last meeting in 2019.
“I shall be watching her funeral with the greatest interest — and sadness,” Major Daniels said.
“This has been a shock. But we also give thanks for Her Majesty’s service. May she rest in peace.”