Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where's the Queen ?

As I mentioned some time ago, I was honoured by the British Embassy in Riga, to attend a ceremony at St. Saviours church, at which ( as I understood it) the Queen would be unveiling a plaque to commemorate the British servicemen who died in defending Latvia in the first world war.

On route to the St. Saviours I passed by the Freedom Monument, which was awash with people, apparently the Queen and the Latvian President has just laid wreaths at the monument, but no mind I would see her at the church

Well as requested I arrived early (instructions were to arrive no latter than 3.50pm), and I seemed to the first !

Security was clearly high on the agenda, so in order to get into the church grounds, one first of all had to convince a very serious gentleman that you were invited - and sure enough there on the list was my name - number 49. However absolutely no proof of identity was requested, nor was my little bag inspected.

Inside the church grounds it was a hive of activity, what with a dog sniffing inside the church, and outside a team of police and military personnel searching under every nook and cranny, presumably in search of hidden thingies, what could do you damage.

But slowly the throng started to arrive, and finally around 4.00pm we were ushered into the church, which had all its pews removed - so just a large open space, and at the alter was the plaque, still covered.

At around 4.30-ish accompanied by the sound of police sirens, the royal entourage arrived, and in HE came - no Queen !!! - just our Philip.

He then proceeded to meet with a number of Latvian military personnel, some clearly either just back from or going to Afghanistan.

He then met with THE 13TH EARL OF CARLISLE, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, Northumberland, Lord Ruthven of Freeland, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland (George William Beaumont Howard) - remember him from Remembrance Day last year.

Well I think he has been the main instigator of getting the British Serviceman a permanent remembrance plaque, and the Duke seemed immersed as the Earl told him of history of the Servicemen who has died.

Then came the unveiling, which was then followed by a brief but touching eulogy by the vicar Juris ( ala Zvannieki).

With official ceremony now over the Duke then proceeded to speak to the non military guests, and lo and behold there he was in front me, asking me if I was Latvian ? anyhow after extending my hand, to which he removed his hand from his jacket pocket and shook my hand, I advised that I was Scottish, and in response as to why I was here replied work - end of conversation.

Now the next gentleman to be greeted - an American Called T..... and in response to being asked his name he replied Thomas Jeffersen, and the Duke without hesitation replied I always wanted meet with you !! Strange he was not asked if he was from Latvian - perhaps something to do with skin color.

After speaking to all his parting comment was Well at least you all of one thing in common, you are Christians !

After the Dukes departure I took the chance to view the plaque, and whilst doing so was approached by a young lady who come from England and was another blogite, but in this case was heavily involved/interested in attending the ceremony as her grandfather was one of those killed. Accompanying her were a number of relatives of others killed in action in Latvia/Baltics.

She advised that courtesy of the Latvian Navy, they would on Friday be laying a wreath at sea, in honour of the war dead. Nice one !

Apparently there was a dinner in honour of the Queen and Duke, that evening in the small guild hall, just around the corner from de Lacy's -perhaps I should have told the Duke where he could get a decent drink ?

So there we go the Queen has been and gone and never did manage to catch a sight of her, perhaps next time !

One question does remain, why did I get an invite in the first place and the only reason I can think of was that when I registered at the embassy I think there was a question - Did you serve in HM Forces ? and of course I did - Royal Air Force

PS apologies about the quality of pictures, not sure I really understand these digital cameras


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