"I congratulate Queen Elizabeth most warmly upon reaching her 88th birthday. When I was growing up on a council house estate in West Yorkshire, I recall being one of many thousands of children waving little flags as the Queen passed by in her car from a distance. Even today, sixty years on I remember the smile she wore that day.
Little did I realise then, that one day in the years ahead that I would see that smile up much closer when I called around to her house to see her. It had been indicated in a somewhat official letter to me by 'The Honours Committee' that she wanted to pin a medal on me. It was an MBE; that's one up from a 'Blue Peter Badge' for the unitiated. Though my official letter of recognition was stuffy, I could never say that about the Queen's smile. It hadn't seemed to change since the first time I'd glimpsed it from afar some forty three years earlier.
Indeed, the more I think about things, how little I ever imagined as a child that one day I would have a number of brushes with royalty. I have been privileged in my time to have spoken with Princess Diana and Princess Margaret by phone, to have had Princess Anne open a Disability Centre for me in Dewsbury by Bill's request. I also sat five rows behind the Queen and Prince Philip at a stadium in Leeds many years before my investiture; although on that occasion I could only see the back of their heads as they nodded their royal approval. I couldn't tell of what they'd approved at the time; it might even have been a Yorkshire pork pie they'd been scoffing.
I was interested to hear on the radio this morning that the famous photographer, David Bailey who has released the most recent image of Her Majesty, described her as having a mischievious smile. I can most certainly testify to that.
Which leads me nicely to my investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace during 1995. As I approached the Queen to receive my gong, I was gobsmacked by Her Majesty’s lack of height, so much so that when she politely asked,'What kind of books do you write Mr Forde?' the only reply I could muster was, 'Good ones, Maam, good ones!'
As the Queen gave me a straight-faced glance with a look that reflected confusion instead of amusement, I could sense one of the Beefeaters behind her raise his axe in anticipation of her next command as he moved forward three paces. Suddenly that royal ‘We are not amused’ look suddenly changed. The royal face softened, the majestic cheeks widened and the Queen laughed: not smiled as protocol decrees, but palpably laughed! It may have been the quiet mischievious laugh of a reserved lady and not a ‘Barnsley belly buster’, but a royal laugh it was nevertheless; and I’ve got it on video and photographs to prove it. Isn't life strange?" William Forde: April 21st, 2014.