The unforgettable day I accidentally met the Queen - sort of

Former Star reporter Rob Golledge explains how he once met the Queen by accident

Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh formally opening the new Jaguar Land Rover Engine Manufacturing Centre JLR on the I54 site in 2014
Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh formally opening the new Jaguar Land Rover Engine Manufacturing Centre JLR on the I54 site in 2014

It was when I realised I had no escape route that I began to panic.

Let me explain.

It was a cool October morning with the sun occasionally threatening to break through the clouds.

I’d been dispatched to the then-new Jaguar Land Rover engine factory, which sits on the M54 close to the borders of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Union flag bunting lined the route, the red carpet was out, and there was the hint of fresh paint in the air.

That could only mean one thing: the Queen was coming to town.

Even for the most cynical and hard-nosed journalist, this is a big deal.

And that day in 2014 felt particularly special.

The official opening of the £500m plant was to symbolise a new era of advanced manufacturing for Wolverhampton and the region.

And how apt it was that skills and graft of Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire folk were powering the vehicles loved and relied upon by Her Majesty and the Royal Family.

I was part of the Royal Rota – a small, select number of journalists chosen to cover the Royal visit.

And there are a few things I’ll never forget.

The knot in my stomach in the hours leading up to the visit, the infectious smiles on everybody’s faces as Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh emerged from their sweeping Royal cavalcade, and the roar of cheering children (and some adults!) that greeted their arrival. And I’ll always remember that the Queen wore teal that day!

I’d double-checked with the travelling courtiers, an absolute must of Royal reporting.

Now, these events are tightly managed right down to the exact location where you must stand.

Members of the Press are either confined to fixed points or rove a fair distance ahead of the Royal party under close supervision of Palace media officers.

In the entrance way dignitaries from the local council and other bodies stood in a straight line to be introduced to Her Majesty and the Duke.

And this is where the trouble started. Keen to extract any titbits from those who got to speak to the Queen, I stood on my own, back against the wall, well out of the way in a remote corner of the factory reception area.

I was close enough to observe what was happening and then, importantly, able to swoop in and speak to the dignitaries after Her Majesty had moved on to the next part of her tour.

But then disaster struck.

Former Star reporter Rob Golledge

After the Queen concluded her brief conversations with the local grandees, I looked up in horror as she started walking straight towards me, accompanied by JLR’s German chief executive Ralf Speth.

For some unknown reason he had deviated off the planned route and I found myself in a three-person huddle. Speth, the Queen, and I.

Stood within touching distance of Her Majesty and backed into a corner, I sheepishly looked up from my feet for my eyes to be locked with those of the most recognisable face on the planet.

The knot in my stomach was tightening with every nanosecond as the locking of eyes turned into a Royal glare.

One was not amused, I feared.

In the distance I could see the Buckingham Palace press aide waving her hands at me frantically – to what effect I do not know.

This was not protocol!

Meanwhile Her Majesty’s eyes were still interlocked with mine.

I was trapped.

This encounter felt like it would never end, my heart beating like a pipe and drum band.

With that, the glare transformed into a glint, the frown into a smile, added to with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders.

Then she was off.

And that’s the story of how I (sort of) met the Queen.

Thank you, Ma’am.

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