The President & The Queen
President Macpherson reminisces about the two times she met Queen Elizabeth II — including a visit to Buckingham Palace.
While the United Kingdom and the rest of the world mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson has been reflecting on her own experiences with Her Majesty.
Macpherson spent 22 years living and working in the United Kingdom. During that period she got involved with the British Association for American Studies, serving as secretary and then chair of the organization. The organization, Macpherson says, maintained a strong relationship with the U.S. Embassy and Buckingham Palace.
That relationship led to two opportunities for Macpherson to meet Queen Elizabeth.
“The first time was at the opening of the Princess Margaret Gardens at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University,” Macpherson said. “The Queen opened the gardens, toured the gardens, spoke briefly, and met with a small number of people, of whom I was one.”
It was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, Macpherson said. Why? Because she’d have to curtsy.
“I had never properly curtsied before, so I didn’t quite know how to do it. If you see people curtsy, you’ll see that there are many different ways to do it, some of which are awkward and some of which look much better. But I had practiced several times and I think it went okay – at least there is no photographic evidence to say otherwise,” she laughed.
Macpherson’s second encounter with the Queen actually took place inside Buckingham Palace. She was formally presented to the Queen and to Prince Phillip and had the opportunity to meet other Royals.
“She was smaller than I thought she would be,” Macpherson said. “But her handshake was firmer than I thought it would be. She was, of course, gloved. You never touch the Queen.”
Macpherson was impressed by the Queen’s stamina, especially for someone in her early 80s. After having a number of other engagements that day, the Queen stayed into the evening and greeted a large number of people individually. She stood the whole time.
“I thought that her service to her country so often goes unnoticed. But she was clear in what she saw as duty and she continued to do it, despite everything else that was going on in the world.”
Macpherson was back in London for a family wedding recently. She and her husband, Allan, arrived the same day the Queen passed away.
“It was a somber moment to realize that none of us had ever known another monarch in our lifetimes. And that the process of change happens so immediately: new stamps will be rolled out with the King’s head on it, the National Anthem will change. I feel very privileged to have met her.”