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Memories of the Queen: An experience I will never forget

Posted on September 13, 2022 by Maple Creek
Royce Pettyjohn took this photograph of Her Majesty as she spoke in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature in 2005.

By Royce Pettyjohn

When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Saskatchewan as part of the Province’s centennial celebrations in 2005, I was invited to attend the event at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building when Her Majesty unveiled the larger than life-sized statue of herself riding her favourite mare Burmese.
Burmese was born here in the Cypress Hills at Fort Walsh, where I was working at the time.  The statue had been commissioned in honour of Her Majesty’s 2002 Golden Jubilee.
Invitees gathered at the Centre of Arts in Regina, and were bussed over to the Legislature. Her Majesty arrived by horse drawn landau and spoke in front of the Legislative building. Being on the end of the row of seating, I was able to easily get up and leave my seat so that I could walk up quite close to the dais where the Queen was speaking. It was a remarkable experience seeing Her Majesty in person that close, and I was able to get a few good photos.
Unfortunately, it rained the entire time that Her Majesty was speaking, during her walk-about afterwards, and during the unveiling the Golden Jubilee Statue.
Her Majesty did not spend much time outside speaking to people. I suspect she didn’t want us to get anymore wet and cold than we already were.
After she unveiled the Golden Jubilee Statue, she went into the Legislative Building.
I spoke with a gentleman carrying bouquets for The Queen.  He let me know that Her Majesty would be coming back out the front door of the Legislative building shortly in order to get into a car to head to her next engagement.
So, rather than boarding the bus back to the Centre of the Arts with the other invitees, I continued to stand in the rain on the steps of the Legislature waiting.
After quite a long wait, Her Majesty emerged from Legislative Building, and came down the steps right past me.  I was so close to her I could have reached out and touched her.  Although I was momentarily stunned by my proximity to her, I still had the wherewithal to pull out my camera.
It was by then completely water logged and not working properly.  So, I banged it and shook it and tried to get it to take a photo. Her Majesty smiled at me as she walked past. She then got into the car waiting for her at the bottom of the steps.
When I got back to the Centre of the Arts on foot, I changed into dry clothes and looked at my camera.  I had purchased it new to take photos at the event. Water was running out of it and all the see-through parts had water sloshing behind them.
When I got back to Maple Creek, the Maple Creek News office was able to remove the film from my camera in a dark box (as this was still the days before digital cameras were that common). To my surprise, the water logged camera had actually taken a photo of Her Majesty coming down the steps just before she passed by me!
Although I was too tongued tied to say anything to Her Majesty as she walked past me, I felt a great privilege to have been in her presence, and to have been so very close to her.  It is certainly an experience that I will never forget.
11 years later, in 2016, in my capacity as the Chair of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation, I was invited to Canada House in London during a visit by Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (as they were known then).
During the visit, my late Mother and I had the honour of speaking with both the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Duchess of Cornwall was particularly generous with her time and spoke with us for quite a while.  In fact, she was still speaking with us by the time the Prince of Wales had finished meeting everyone else in the room.  She subsequently had to leave us to re-join him.
This was likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and speak with the couple who are now Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Again, it was an experience that I will never forget.  I am so happy that my late Mother had the opportunity to meet them before her passing in 2021.

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