Wales

The Queen at 90: Memories from people around Wales

As the Queen celebrates her 90th birthday, people from around Wales share their memories of the monarch during her six-decade reign.

'I look better at 90'

Image caption Mr Ward's hobbies include singing, painting, cycling and playing piano

One man who will be celebrating more than most on 21 April is Frank Ward, of Pembrokeshire, who was born just hours before the Queen in 1926.

While lying in hospital, Mr Ward's mother heard the church bells of Bow, east London, ringing out across the city to signal the young Elizabeth's safe arrival.

"I am three hours older than the Queen. I look better at 90," he joked, but agreed the Queen had more hair than him.

"I think she's done very well, especially when she didn't think she would become Queen."

Image caption Mr Ward has worked in security and was a counsellor, healer and palm reader

Like Her Majesty, Mr Ward has lived through war and personal tragedy, having been injured following an explosion on a ship off the French coast while serving with the Royal Navy.

He has eight children and eight grandchildren and moved to Pembrokeshire in 1978, settling in the Pembroke area.

While the monarch will mark her birthday at Windsor Castle, Mr Ward will be tucking into cake with his fellow residents at the care home where he lives near Tenby, which has been decorated to mark the occasion.

'Funny side'

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Media captionSix-year-old Maisie presented the Queen with a posy

One person who will not forget the day she met the Queen easily is Cardiff schoolgirl Maisie.

She was presenting Her Majesty with a posy at an event to honour the Army's Royal Welsh regiment in June 2015 when she was accidently hit in the face by a saluting soldier.

But at the time, Maisie's father, Regimental Sergeant Major Martin Gregory, said his daughter had seen the funny side.

"She was a little bit upset but I let her wear my hat and carry my sword. She was soon cheerful," he said.

'Tragic circumstances'

Image copyright Arthur Edwards
Image caption The Queen with Jeff Edwards (far right) during her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012

Few villages with a population of just a few thousand people would have received four visits from the Queen during her reign.

But few places hold such a special place in her heart as the small former mining community of Aberfan, according to former Merthyr Tydfil council leader Jeff Edwards.

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Media captionThe Queen visits Aberfan after disaster

Mr Edwards, 57, was one of the survivors when a colliery spoil tip collapsed on his village school, killing 116 children and 28 adults in October 1966.

"I think it [Aberfan] is important to her because of the tragic circumstances," he said.

"It was one of the most tragic events of her reign and it happened early on in her time as Queen."

Image caption The Queen and Prince Philip visited Aberfan days after the tragedy
Image caption Mr Edwards first met the Queen when she opened a new community centre in Aberfan in March 1973
Image copyright Arthur Edwards

Mr Edwards has met the Queen six times, including three of her Aberfan visits - to open a new community centre in 1973, to plant a tree in a memorial garden in 1997 and for the opening of Ynysowen school in 2012.

He met her three other times, including on two occasions at Buckingham Palace garden parties, once when she said to him "you're the little boy with the white hair", recalling their first meeting.

"She is very caring, with a wicked sense of humour," he said.

"I can remember her laughing [during the school opening] that we had huge curtains that she had to open to reveal what was a small plaque.

"I joked with her it was because Welsh slate is so expensive."

'Really sincere'

Image caption Thousands of people turned out to meet the Queen when she visited Welshpool in 2010

Esther Buckley, receptionist at the Royal Oak Hotel in Welshpool, Powys, met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they visited the town's new livestock market in April 2010.

"She came to the hotel for a lunch. Afterwards she went up into one of the rooms we had put by for her to rest and powder her nose," she said.

"I think we were all quite shocked to be honest. It's not every day that you hear royalty is coming.

"It was quite daunting because we had the special services coming in to check everything and we had to keep the area around the hotel clear. It was quite amazing really.

"I remember she was wearing a blue dress. She was lovely and very charming. When they came out and said thank you to all the staff they shook everyone's hand and were really sincere."

Image copyright Esther Buckley

'Just normal people'

Image copyright Geraint Thomas
Image caption The Queen visited Caernarfon Castle in Gwynedd in 2010, 41 years after Prince Charles' investiture there

Caernarfon town clerk, Katherine Owen, has met many members of the Royal family over the years, but one particular meeting with the Queen and Prince Philip at Caernarfon Castle in 2010 sticks in her mind.

She said: "The mayoress introduces me and as I'm halfway down my curtsy he [Prince Philip] says 'oh, isn't it lovely to see a young and sexy town clerk for a change', which he quickly followed up with 'but where's your wig?' - for once in my life I had no idea what to say.

"My brave response was 'I think it's thank you your highness but I'm not sure and I had to leave my wig behind as I'm coming out to lunch with you and it would ruin my hair', to which he replied 'as long as it's for my benefit that's fine'.

"That's the thing about them [the Royal Family], they're just normal people. They are so easy to talk to, you think you're not going to know what to say, but you just act normal.

"Perhaps I was more nervous meeting her [the Queen] than any of the others just because who she is. But there was no need to be, she was very, very easy to deal with."

'Such excitement'

Image copyright John Oakley

Former Royal harpist to the Prince of Wales, Claire Jones, from Crymych, Pembrokeshire, has performed for the Queen on a number of occasions.

"I performed for her in 2009, one-to-one at the Royal Academy of Music, and I vividly remember the build up and feeling such excitement and joy at the thought of performing for our monarch," she said.

"I remember feeling so anxious before she entered the room, as there is a great deal of protocol of course, however once she came in and I was face to face with her, it felt so relaxed immediately.

"She just puts people at ease and really shows such enthusiasm for Wales and for our national instrument - the harp."

On a separate occasion, following a performance at Buckingham Palace, the pair enjoyed a cup of tea together as they waited for others to join them in the state dining room.

"She was warm and friendly and really showed great support, which to me as a 24-year-old meant a lot.

"I remember phoning my parents on the way home from Buckingham Palace and my mother nearly fell off her chair when I told her I'd just had tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace."

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