Sleaford MP recalls as teenager meeting Queen then watched her tip treats in handbag

The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham has paid tribute to the Queen in a special celebration debate held on Thursday afternoon in the House of Commons in honour of her Platinum Jubilee.

Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson.
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson.
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson.

In her speech, Dr Caroline Johnson said it was “a great honour” to speak in this tribute debate, recalling an encounter with the Queen as a teenager at school.

She said: “The celebration of Her Majesty’s jubilee will involve many parties and much joy, but it will also be a thank you to Her Majesty. Seventy years ago, she said: ‘my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service’. Indeed it has been; she has served our country with grace, dignity and love.

“During her reign, the Queen has met many, many people. A YouGov poll back in 2018 found that around a third of the population had seen or met the Queen in real life. For each one, it is a special and much-treasured moment and memory.

"The same, of course, is true for me. I was 17 years old, a student at Gordonstoun in Scotland, when Her Majesty came to visit my school. I vividly remember the excitement, and the preparations, which included mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters and re-painting the white lines on the speed bumps, so that everything was perfect for her arrival. I remember the excitement that I, a mere scholarship student, felt at being chosen to sit opposite Her Majesty at lunch. I remember my worry, too. What if they gave us spaghetti bolognese? How would I manage? I need not have worried. The Queen was truly charming and, as many have observed today, she is wonderful at making people feel relaxed and at ease in any circumstances.

“My particular memories from that dinner include, first, discussing travel. It was fascinating to hear of the Queen’s many visits to and love for her Commonwealth. It was also interesting to reflect on how her visits to a country differ from those of her subjects. I realised that there are many places that she can go and see that I cannot, but there are also many places that I can go and see that she cannot.

“My second memory of the lunch was that, as it came to an end, there was to be a music recital. The Queen moved round to get a better view, coming to sit right next to me. I remember how surreal it felt – it feels surreal to describe it now, actually – to be an ordinary girl from Middlesbrough sitting next to this completely magnificent woman. Mr Sheerman spoke of how the Queen has a great sense of fun. I remember sitting there lost for words – some may not believe that, but I was – feeling in awe and unsure what to say, when Her Majesty asked, ‘Would anyone like any more of those fudge squares?’ We, on our best behaviour, of course said, ‘No, thank you,’ and she picked the tea plate up, opened her bag and, with a twinkle in her eye, tipped the fudge inside, declaring them as good for the train later. We were not sure whether they were for the corgis, for her or for the grandchildren. Nevertheless, it added some of her gentle humour to proceedings.

“Throughout the House, there will be many, many memories to share, as there are across my constituency. Some of my constituents will remember visits that she has undertaken locally, particularly to RAF Cranwell, which is also well known to her son, the Prince of Wales, as he began his armed services career there in March ’71. I have been delighted that a wealth of aircraft have taken to the skies over RAF Cranwell this week to rehearse for the fly-past that is due to take place next week for Her Majesty’s jubilee, with more than 70 aircraft, including the Red Arrows, Spitfires and Hurricanes, set to go on display.

“The nation is coming together not just in London, but in every village across our country. Preparations are under way across Sleaford and North Hykeham to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service. The village of Osbournby – as was the case back at school all those years ago – is ensuring that the place is spick and span before the jubilee celebrations, with a village tidy-up on May 29 to make sure that everything is just lovely. Many villages such as Sudbrook are having street parties and cake competitions. Others have interesting and unusual ways of celebrating the jubilee, such as North Kyme, where there will be a jubilee-themed scarecrow competition. North Kyme will also light one of the 2022 charity beacons that will be lit across the UK for the jubilee weekend.

“Metheringham has a competition for the best poem about the Queen and the best decorated crown, and I am sure that Her Majesty would approve of the dog and pet show. North Scarle is producing a quilt, with members of the community each stitching a nine-inch square. I noted that the instructions said, ‘Our Queen is thrifty. We expect you to upcycle or recycle the materials, not simply buy them’. Each child of primary school age in Potterhanworth will be provided with a truly beautiful medal in a little gift box to celebrate and remember this momentous occasion. Brant Broughton is doing similar with commemorative mugs for all children under the age of 18.

“However my constituents remember the jubilee in the next week, the common thread running through all the celebrations will be gratitude to Her Majesty for all that she has done and will do in future, admiration for how she does it and a genuine love for our Queen. I would like to offer thanks to Her Majesty on behalf of all my constituents: thank you, Your Majesty. Congratulations on your platinum jubilee. God save the Queen.”