The Queen turns 90: Happy Birthday, Ma'am

By Gemma Hartley

Two leading Kiwis wish all the best to a monarch they’ve found engaging and relaxed during their encounters.

Today marks a milestone: the Queen turns 90.

Since her coronation on June 2, 1953, she has visited 53 Commonwealth countries and has worked to create a sense of belonging and family for all across her realm. She visited New Zealand 10 times.

Two prominent Kiwis have told us their encounters with the Queen are something they will never forget.

Her passion for horses is well documented, and she has been to Ellerslie Racecourse more than once, including the day in 1986 when she was pelted with eggs by two protesters. One of the eggs stained her pink coat.

Horse breeder Sir Patrick Hogan first met the Queen when he received an invitation to lunch on the royal yacht Britannia in Auckland in 1986.

He was told to arrive promptly at the wharf for noon but got a shock when he found himself one of only 12 or so people waiting in line.

"When I received the invitation, there was a number printed on it that said 200 and something, so I thought it was going to be an easy one to accept," Sir Patrick said.

"Little did I know that there were only 10 or 12 of us who were actually invited and according to the seating chart, which we were instructed to check upon boarding, I was seated immediately on the left of the Queen. Crikey!

"I had the most wonderful 30-minute conversation with the Queen about horses. She had done her homework about me and I had done my homework on her horses so we had plenty to talk about.

"After about three minutes, I knew I didn't need to be panicked about what I said and the manner in which I said it. She made you feel very relaxed and engaged.

"When brandy snaps were presented to us, she instructed me to give it a short sharp jab with a knife, which I did, and then we ate them together."

In 1990, the Queen paid a visit to Sir Patrick's stud farm near Cambridge. She had personally asked that it be put on her itinerary.

"How many people can say the Queen personally requested a visit to your home and farm? It was just incredible. A day that I will never forget," he said. " She came at 11am and left at 3pm and had lunch in our home. When she got out of the car she was just so wonderful and relaxed and genuinely interested.

"What she has achieved for New Zealand, the UK and every other Commonwealth country is absolutely fantastic. I wish her a very happy birthday and every happiness."

The Queen is passionate about charity and the voluntary sector.

Research from the Charities Aid Foundation shows she is among the world's greatest supporters of charities and has helped the many organisations of which she is patron to raise more than $2.5 billion.

Kiwi charity champion Dame Rosie Horton first met the Queen in 1981, during a short visit after a Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Melbourne. Last month, Dame Rosie met her again at a cocktail party at Marlborough House marking Commonwealth Day.

"We were invited to this fabulous reception in the presence of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh; we never expected to be introduced.

"I've met her several times in New Zealand but this was different, I think, because we were in her country.

"She really made a tremendous effort to make us feel welcome. No wonder people love and admire her. Look at how she manages her life at 90," said Dame Rosie.

"When I first met her, I remember asking myself why I didn't practise my curtsy because I was rather nervous it was going to go terribly wrong, but luckily it didn't. She is engaging and enchanting. She is so dedicated to her subjects and has given so much of her life for us and other Commonwealth countries.

"I think we are lucky to be part of the Commonwealth and I hope we retain our relationship with [it].

"I don't think there will ever be a Queen like her again ... She really is special and an incredible role model who holds herself with such dignity you can't help but feel inspired."

- NZ Herald

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