Fun side of Queen Elizabeth II that the public rarely saw

A former royal protection officer recalls when the monarch met two American tourists who failed to recognise her

Queen Elizabeth II with her former bodyguard Richard Griffin behind her. Getty Images
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In the days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many people have shared stories of their favourite memories and encounters with the monarch.

One in particular went viral, revealing the cheeky side of her personality that the public did not often see.

The story, told by former royal protection officer Richard Griffin — known as Dick to the queen — tells of how the pair were out for a walk near Balmoral when they bumped into two American tourists.

“It was clear from the moment we first stopped that they hadn't recognised the queen — which is fine — and the American gent was telling the queen where they came from, where they were going next, and where they'd been to in Britain. And I could see it coming,” he told Sky News, during the queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations earlier this year.

“And sure enough, he said to her majesty, 'And where do you live?' And she said, 'Well, I live in London but I have a holiday home just the other side of the hills'.”

One of the tourists asked the queen, who was in tweeds and a headscarf, how often she had visited Balmoral. She told them 80 years, since she was a little girl.

“And you can see the cogs ticking. He said: 'Well, if you've been coming up here for 80 years, you must've met the queen.”

“And as quick as a flash, she says: 'Well I haven't, but Dicky here meets her regularly.'”

Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Liz Truss to Balmoral two days before her death. Reuters

Knowing her well enough to pull her leg, he told the tourists: “She can be very cantankerous at times, but she's got a lovely sense of humour.”

The hiker then asked the monarch to take a picture with him, which she did, and she then had a picture taken with them, too.

“We never let on and we waved goodbye and then her majesty said, 'I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he shows those photos to his friends in America, and hopefully someone tells him who I am'.”

It is just one story Mr Griffin has shared of his times with the queen. In another, he told of how he failed to invite her to his retirement party.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: “It was when I was retiring and the queen's private secretary said her majesty the queen would like me to have my retirement party in the state department. I can invite 200 people.

“I said, 'well I don't know 200 people', but of course when word got out when my retirement party was I soon did.

On the night of the soiree, one of his colleagues told him “a little old lady” would be coming to his party that night.

“I said, 'what little old lady?' He said, 'the queen'.

“I said, 'don't be silly, she doesn't do anything like that, if she does it for one person she's got to do it for everyone'.

“He said, 'well she definitely wants to come to yours, I was out with her in the car this afternoon and she said, (she calls me Dick), she said it's Dick's farewell party tonight, I'd love to have gone, but he hasn't invited me'.

“So Colin said, 'Your majesty, of course you can go, it's your party, and what an honour that would be if you turn up.’

“And she said, 'so it would be OK if I just gatecrash it?' And lovely it was; her majesty, Prince Philip, and the Wessexes all turned up to my retirement party, which I must admit was probably one of the thrills of my career.

“It was wonderful to be able to introduce the queen — I mean my children and my wife had obviously met her previously but none of my wider family had, so that was a fantastic way to finish off my career working with her.”

Updated: September 13, 2022, 3:35 PM