Daniel Murphy (LGS 1996), Head of History, pictured with his daughter Clover at LGS Prize Giving 2022.
The Headmaster, Dr Daniel Koch, spoke movingly in assembly the morning after Her Majesty the Queen passed away. He described her as “A symbol of unity and stability, of integrity, service and character…And yet she was not a just symbol, she was something much more than that – she was a person.” I count myself very lucky to have experienced these qualities first hand.
My first meeting with the Queen was when she came to Loughborough in 1989. As squeaky new first years in Dr Underwood’s form at LGS, I and my classmates lined the path on her visit to the university for a brief hello and handshake. Following that visit, we boys of 1U all wrote letters requesting her to visit the school for our Quincentenary celebrations in a few year’s time – the best (written by James MacDonald-Pearce, despite his awful handwriting) was chosen to be sent to the Palace, and the rest is history!
When the Queen duly visited the School in 1996 to open the new English and Drama building, I was by then in the Upper VIth and had the honour of being Head Boy. While my friends in CCF were being drenched by the torrential rain in the quad, I was cloistered indoors trying to calm my nerves at the prospect of calling for “Three Cheers for Her Majesty” and presenting the crystal vase that was the gift from the school. (Thankfully it was only afterwards that I found out that the catering staff were laying bets on whether I would drop it or not…)
Adding to the sense of anticipation was the knowledge that I would sit opposite Her Majesty throughout lunch, along with the Headmaster, the Chair of Governors, the Lord Lieutenant and their respective wives, and the Deputy Headmaster. My partner for the meal would be the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, the very warm and charming Lady Susan Hussey.
I need not have been nervous – the Queen was simply lovely. Asking probing questions about my career aspirations after school, she showed a really deep understanding of the selection and training process of the RAF and was excited and enthusiastic about my plans to join Oxford University Air Squadron. She also revealed a very human sense of humour, spending much of the meal gently ribbing me about a practical joke that had been played on Mr Ireland that morning (involving a fax requesting kennelling and feed for a troupe of corgis), suggesting I had been behind it all. She exuded gravitas and majesty of course, but the lady I remember at that lunch was all warmth, humour and humanity – and with a slightly impish glint in the eye. It may sound trite, but she positively twinkled. What a person, what an experience, and what a rare opportunity thanks to this fantastic school.
Also, in the Hall as I croaked out ‘Three Cheers’ that day was my future wife, Lucy, then at LHS. We were lucky enough to see the Queen together once again, a decade and a half later, when we were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace on my return from a tour as a political adviser in Afghanistan. As I write this, Lucy makes a very poignant point – our new baby daughter and our two-year-old son will grow up with no memory of this unique person who was our Queen. I find this sad. But I hope that as parents we can pass on some semblance of the integrity, service and character that our Queen has so amply demonstrated – and her warmth and humanity.