Queen Elizabeth II has passed away. My recollections with The Royal Family.


Ch Sushil Rao: Queen Elizabeth II has passed away. My recollections with The Royal family. 

On November 20, 1983 Queen Elizabeth II visited the Holy Trinity Church at Bolarum in Secunderbad and attended the Sunday worship service there. The Queen and Prince Philip were on a visit to India and the occasion was their 36th wedding anniversary.

 I have a photograph of the Queen at the Holy Trinity Church where she was given a traditional welcome with a garland. The then Bishop-in-Medak Rt Rev Victor Premasagar, Rev B P Sugandhar, Rev Hamiltan, the presbyter of the church at that time and other senior officials of the diocese welcome the Queen. My eldest brother-in-law Vennamalla Padma Rao, as an official of the Medak diocese is standing on the extreme right of the photograph behind the Queen during her visit.  During this visit to Hyderabad, the Queen and Prince Philip attended some programmes together and in a packed schedule chose to attend some of them separately.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away at Balmoral Castle in the UK on September 8, 2022. She was 96. Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband passed away on April 9, 2021. The couple’s eldest son Prince Charles, the who was coronated Prince of Wales in 1969 by the Queen will be the next monarch of UK.

It was during a tumultuous period in their relationship that Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Hyderabad. It was not too much in the public about how they were not able to see eye to eye but grapevine had it that they were putting up a show as still being a couple in love. That the fairy tale wedding that was of them was crumbling was quite evident when I went to the Begumpet airport when Prince Charles and Lady Diana were on a visit to Hyderabad.

The couple visited Hyderabad on February 14, 1992. I was working for Deccan Chronicle at that time. I went to the airport after finding out the time of their arrival. It was late in the night. After the aircraft landed, the couple were given a simple welcome and they got on to a open top vehicle to acknowledge the motley crowd of officials. Having heard about the cracks in their relationship, I paid attention to every detail during the time that I was at the airport, observing the couple. Both looked cheerful. Both smiled. Both waved. Both stood beside each other and looked very happy indeed. As I said, I was concentrating more on where I could observe the cracks in the relationship rather than the mandatory show that they were putting up as a royal couple.

For as long as they were at the airport, I noticed that the couple had not exchanged a word. Maybe it wasn’t necessary as they were to respond to the welcome being accorded to them. They did not look at each other, though standing beside one another. Maybe it was not necessary as they had to look in different directions to acknowledge the small group of officials and a handful of mediamen who had come. I did some more homework. I checked with the five-star hotel where the couple were put up. It was glaring. They were in separate rooms and not close to one another. Maybe it was for the sake of comfort and convenience. I’ve argued on behalf of them so that I do not draw any conclusions myself – reading too much into what was not really significant. The fact remains that I noticed the cracks. On August 31, 1997 Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. The gulf had widened between Prince Charles and Lady Diana over the years and she was practically living her life the way she wanted. On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles married Camila Parker Bowles.

 There was no occasion for me to meet Prince Chales or Lady Diana during their visit to Hyderabad except for being there at the Begumpet airport and also to assume that in the darkness they had also waved to me as I was among the few people to be at the airport.

The meeting with Queen’s Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, however, is vivid in my memory. This is something that I had written about in the blog earlier when he died last year and I reproduce it here again.

Music wafted in the air. Mandolin Srinivas created magic as we sat down to listen to him weave magic on his instrument on the lawns of Jubilee hall in Hyderabad .  The concert for the small gathering was organized for Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburg one evening when he was on a visit to the city in  1997. He had come to India with his wife, the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth. While the Queen went about engagements that had been fixed for her, Prince Philip had programmes to attend in three other cities, including Hyderabad.

Having some idea about the royalty and the protocol, it was only expected that the Prince would at the most spend a few minutes at the very formal event. But Prince Philip seemed to enjoy the evening with the lilting music of U Srinivas.  There suddenly was some commotion among the officials. Departing from Protocol, the Prince had expressed a desire to meet all the artistes who had performed and also the motley group of people who had been invited for the occasion.

I was there as a reporter and it did come as a bit of a surprise as we informed that the Prince Philip would walk down to where we were sitting. Just so that there would be no commotion, the officials while conveying the desire of the Prince, asked all the artistes who were with mandolin Srinivas, to be gathered at a particular place on the lawn, not far from the dais that has been put up for the day’s cultural performance. 

Meeting Prince Philip that day turned out to be interesting because he had been informed that it the evening’s programme was a ‘formal event’ and that meeting or talking to Prince Philip was out of question. Prince Philip who was 76 years old then, not only enjoy the classical music concern but he expressing a desire to meet the guests of the evening, left a great impression on everyone who came.  Protocol officials cautioned the group of people against extending their hand to shake hands with the Prince but, of course, if he chose to, they could. And the Prince did choose to mingle freely with the gathering, shaking hands with some but with a genuine smile all through.

Prince Philip is known to be a man with a great amount of humour and the informal manner in which he interacted gave me an insight into another side of the British royalty.



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