Memories of The Queen

2 June 2022


Born Free’s Co-Founder and Trustee, Virginia McKenna OBE, marks Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with some personal reflections.

Joy Adamson, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers line up to meet Her Majesty The Queen at the premiere of Born Free

I first met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 56 years ago. Bill and I had made a film called “Born Free“, and it was to be a Royal Premiere, in those days, a rare event.

Virginia McKenna OBE

Virginia McKenna OBE

We were both terribly nervous. I have never forgotten her warm smile and her beauty, and the way she put us at ease. The film went on to be a huge success and marked the beginning of Bill and my personal journey which would lead to the founding of our charity, The Born Free Foundation.

Eleven years later, in 1976, Bill had become well-known for his documentary film making. He had a very deep wish to make a film about a year in the garden at Buckingham Palace. After an in-depth meeting with a senior advisor to Her Majesty, his wish was granted, and so began a unique and extraordinary experience.

The Queen’s Garden” is a captivating film, marking Her Majesty’s 1977 Silver Jubilee, which still can be seen today on YouTube. Her Majesty most kindly agreed to appear in the film, and she can be seen talking to Fred Nutbeam, the Head Gardener, and walking through the garden with her famous corgis.

An image of the DVD cover for 'The Queen's Garden'Come the day she was to be filmed, I was there early with Bill and the camera team, to rehearse and walk the path the Queen would take so this was all set up in advance. The sun shone, she greeted us all warmly, and then I was asked to show her where to walk so she would remain in shot. It went perfectly.

When filming was over and the finished documentary was ready, Bill was invited to the Palace to show it to the Queen. He was taken to a room where a screen had been set up, and her chair placed in front of it. He sat down further back, a respectful distance away, but she turned and indicated he should sit beside her. An additional chair was arranged.

This is just one example of her genuine interest in people, nature and the world around her, why we love and admire her so much. And why, in this Platinum Jubilee year especially, our Queen will always be remembered.