The story behind the photo

Penny Scott shares her memories of meeting the Queen at a fundraising event for Royal National Institute of Blind People

The Queen

This photo was taken at the Royal Gala in 2013. Rae Scott gives a bouquet of flowers to Queen Elizabeth II with their mother, Penny Scott, smiling behind. Rae [whose pronouns are they/them] is now 17 and studies at the Royal National College for the Blind.

Rae was born with bilateral cataracts. They had both their lenses removed, and from very early on, had thick glasses. At the age of seven, they got secondary glaucoma in one of their eyes. Now Rae can read large print but only very close up. They say it is like looking under water the rest of the time. They also have nystagmus which is an involuntary wobble of the eye.

When we arrived at the Royal Gala, Michael Ball was there talking to someone at a table. As soon as we stepped in, he stopped talking and said to Rae ‘Oh, I’ve heard about you I think you must be one of the princesses who live in this palace.’

I remember Prince Phillip was actually ill in hospital that night. People didn’t know if the Queen would cancel. We were elated that she did decide to come. The Queen came along the line and was chatting with people. She was very polite and genuinely interested in everyone. She would ask people questions, listen to their answers, and follow up with another question.

At the very end, Rae was standing there with a bouquet of flowers which they gave to the Queen. That is when the photo was taken. She said ‘Thank you very much. They are my favourite colour.’ It was a lovely evening filled with special moments. Rae fell asleep on my lap at one point. After all the excitement of the day, they were out like a light.

She did not choose to be in her position but from the beginning, she devoted her life to it

When the Queen passed away, I couldn’t really believe it. I had been out when the announcement was made, and I only realised she had died when I sat down to dinner and my family was talking about her in the past tense. The Queen has been a consistent presence my whole life.

We have a mother and daughter from Ukraine who are staying with us. We spoke to them for the rest of the evening about the Queen – how long she had been on the throne, about her husband, the Jubilee, and meeting her. We got out our photos from the day. They could see how important she was to us, and became very sombre and respectful.

She did not choose to be in her position but from the beginning, she devoted her life to it. She was impeccable in her manner with people, how she spoke with them and listened to them. Even when people dropped decorum, she just carried on as though it was an everyday thing. She was absolutely devoted to her role.

  • As told to Selina Powell.