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When Stortford comedian Paddy Lennox met the Queen: 'I remember being briefed about protocol, which is don’t speak unless spoken to and, for the love of God, don’t spill anything on the Queen'

Bishop's Stortford-based comedian Paddy Lennox recalls the time he met the Queen at the 1992 Royal Variety Show...

In the early 1990s I was funding my London drama school fees working as a butler for Stoll Moss Theatres. In red tails, white tie and gloves we would look after VIPs, film stars and royalty in the West End.

I was lucky enough to be asked to look after the royal room during the Royal Variety Show. I couldn't believe they gave the job to me – after all, I was a country boy from Ulster, but nonetheless I was very excited. I don’t care how cool you might try to be in such circumstances, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I mean... The Queen!

I remember setting up the room and being briefed about protocol, which is don’t speak unless spoken to and, for the love of God, don’t spill anything on the Queen.

So there I was: just QE2, Lord and Lady Ogilvy and two ladies in waiting in the royal room at Drury Lane Theatre.

Now the royal room is tiny and the corridor leading to the royal box is very cramped, which makes it a very personal space for everyone.

When Paddy Lennox met the Queen (59291313)
When Paddy Lennox met the Queen (59291313)

The protocol to start the show was that I had to open the door to the box just a crack for the MD (musical director) to know that the Queen was ready to enter. The MD would then strike up the anthem and in she would go.

We got clearance from the front of house and I moved to the box door and waited for the Queen to stand next to me. Normally you would stand behind the door but the door opens flat against the wall so I was next to the Queen. And I mean right next to her because of the cramped space. I remember thinking how she smelled really nice.

Anyway, I cracked the door open and waited for the anthem, but nothing happened. There was pin-dropping silence from the auditorium. I waited. The Queen waited. Ogilvy and his wife waited. The lady-in-waiting waited. The lady-in-waiting-waiting waited. But nothing. Not a dickie bird.

The tension grew and grew in that cramped corridor until the Queen said: “Oh dear.” Then, with perfect timing, added dryly: “I don’t think anyone has turned up.” We all got the giggles.

Then she said with an amazing twinkle: “Maybe one should pay one's taxes after all.”

Perfect comic timing.

* Paddy Lennox lives in Bishop's Stortford with his wife Annabel and their three children. He is the founder and compere of the Laughing Bishops Comedy Club, which returns to the Water Lane United Reformed Church hall this Saturday (Sept 17).

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