‘Does the Queen have an identical twin? What if she lived in a dustbin?’

5 Apr 2012 @ 1.02 pm
| News

Our man braves crowds and backache to glimpse Queen

Can confirm she was wearing hat and other clothes

The Queen greets the Lord Mayor David Horton at Micklegate Bar today. Photograph: adamthezebra, flickr
The Queen’s in York. How do we know? Because we saw her trundle into Micklegate, and trundle out of the Minster.

Add together all the time which we actually clapped eyes on the monarch, and it would add up to two, maybe even three seconds. This isn’t a lot, even for a fervent royalist. For a royal agnostic it was even less.

But then, seeing the Queen wasn’t really why we were here.

The point was being part of the crowd, being mixed in to the occasion. York doesn’t come together often – and to be honest it didn’t come together today; for every flag-waver there were probably three head-shakers, complaining about the disruption and the traffic and the clogged streets. And all those police? How much is that costing?

But a big part of the city turned out to catch a glimpse (let’s be honest, perhaps our last glimpse) of this incredible, relentless sovereign.

Natalie, left, and Mia await the Queen's arrival
Our family, including Jack, 13, and Mia, eight, joined nine-year-old Natalie and her mum. At least, we conceded on the way to the bus station, York had put on her best bib and tucker for the visit of the Queen today – so much so that HM probably didn’t recognise the place.

So often past royal tours have taken place in rain, and once even fog. But today the sun shone on the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Beatrice of York.

The sunshine added to the unavoidable sense of excitement. We joined cheerful queues at Monks Cross Park and Ride – well done to First for putting on plenty of buses to whisk us into town.

On board the Number Nine one family was engaged in speculation about the monarch’s mood. “What if she woke up this morning and thought, I really don’t want to come to York? She’s 85 after all,” the mum mused, before adding: “I bet Prince Philip falls asleep on the train.”

“Does the Queen have an identical twin?” her child asked. “What if the Queen lived in a dustbin?”

In the centre of town you wouldn’t know anything was going on. But then we crossed over the Ouse and into the red-white-and-blue zone.

Often neglected, Micklegate takes a starring role in these affairs. And it lived up to the occasion, the sun and bunting adding a joviality to this ancient street, like an old, crotchety uncle who puts on a paper hat at Christmas.

Buzby awaits Her Majesty
England’s eccentrics gathered in gaggles. A giant yellow Easter chick mingled with Civil War soldiers. Sellers of patriotic tat paraded alongside council leader James Alexander in his blue gown, who successfully managed to talk to toddlers without terrifying them – a knack every politician should master.

Plastic union flags and bowler hats enjoyed their brief moment in the sun before being lost again to the loft or landfill tonight.

And we waited.

Council leader James Alexander chats to a young royalist
For the first time in the centuries-old tradition of royal visits to York, the crowd did not speculate about when the monarch and her consort would arrive. We followed their every movement on Twitter.

“Oh, she’s in a car, not walking,” said one of our neighbours after checking her phone, clearly disappointed that the 85-year-old Queen wasn’t about to brave the cobbles on foot.

We were pitched halfway down Micklegate. We couldn’t see the Lord Mayor David Horton grant the Queen permission to come in to York at the Bar. We gathered he had done just that, rather than tell her ‘On your bike!’, because the drums started 100 yards south of us.

There was some cheering but not much clapping. It’s hard to applaud when you’re waving a flag, holding aloft a toddler and straining to get a blurry phone-camera shot of the cavalcade.

Then – shoom – the car was past and gone. We were on the Duke of Edinburgh’s side of the car – curses! – but got a glimpse of what looked like a queenly blue hat.

If you are now expecting an informed description of Her Majesty’s outfit, you’ve come to the wrong place. But I can confirm she was wearing clothes of some sort.

After her Micklegate exit, we meandered with many others to the Minster. By the time we arrived the Queen was inside, with the Duke of Edinburgh and, we presumed, Princess Beatrice although we’d not seen hide nor hair of the mad-hatted granddaughter.

Having worked out which side of the car the monarch would be on, we headed to a Queen-facing crash barrier. Just in front of the Catholic church. And we waited.

And we waited.

The Maundy service was over, the Minster bells rang, the great church disgorged beefeaters, and aldermen, a bewigged Kersten England, council chief executive, and the rest of the guests.

Council chief executive Kersten England, in traditional wig, after the Minster Maundy Service
Still we waited. Now the rumours started. Had the Queen snuck out the back way? For a good 15 minutes, that is what we assumed, thinking it was a right regal rip-off.

Or was she updating her Facebook status? (I couldn’t get a signal to check.) York’s Dial-A-Ride bus arrived – not for Her Majesty, surely?

Then the police motorcycle outriders suddenly put on their lights. From our vantage point we couldn’t see Her Majesty on the Minster steps, but we did see the Queen waving from the back of her limo. Shoom. And she was off to lunch at the Mansion House.

Backs aching, rubber-necks twinging, our 110 minute wait was over. And who needs professional photographers when I took this..?

Time for a picnic lunch in Museum Gardens. Heck, it was packed. Getting from the library side of the park to the river side took half an hour of squeezing and excuse me’s.

By this time the novelty was wearing off. The Queen’s in York? No biggie.

But when we heard the cheering again, we were up the hill to the crash barriers like a corgi with its tail on fire. And this was definitely the right decision.

“She waved at me!” said Mia. And so she did.

We walked down to the river, past the armed policemen enjoying an ice cream, and decided to join them in their celebration. Lollies all round.