"For most of my life as a staunch socialist between the ages of 18 years and forty, you could have marked me as a Republican through and through. Had Oliver Cromwell still been around then there would have been nothing square about my head!
And yet, like millions of children who were reared in the 40's and 50's, I was a monarchist. I even recall selecting to sing 'In a Golden Coach lies a heart of gold riding through old London town' at a school concert when Queen Elizabeth the Second got crowned on June 2nd, 1953.
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 stood by the roadside as the Queen passed by in her car from a distance. Even today, sixty years on, I remember the smile she wore that day, especially as I saved the mug that all English schools gave their pupils. It says something about us not being a throw-away society then as such ceramic mementoes are still intact in their millions and can still be picked up at car boot sales for coppers, whereas little effort is devoted to preservation these days, not even marriage or life itself!
Little did I realise as a child, that one day in the years ahead that I would see that royal smile up much closer when I called around to her house to see her. It had earlier 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 uninitiated. 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 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 personal 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 what they were mouthing at the time; it might even have been a Yorkshire pork pie they'd been scoffing.
Many years ago, the famous photographer, David Bailey, released an image of Her Majesty, who he described as having a mischievous 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 mischievous laugh of a reserved lady and not the raucous outburst of a ‘Barnsley belly buster’, but a royal laugh it was nevertheless; I’ve got it on video and photographs to prove it. Isn't life strange when all the water has been drained from the cooking pot?" William Forde: April 21st,2017.