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Great Britain Remembers Queen Mother

Aired March 30, 2002 - 16:49   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now the other big development of the day that we are following is the death of Great Britain's queen mother. At 101 years old earlier today, she died in her sleep at the Windsor Castle -- and in fact, at the Windsor Castle, that's where our Diana Muriel is now, and she has with her there someone who claims to be a good friend of the queen mother.

DIANA MURIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. I am joined here at Windsor Castle by Eric Anderson who is the provost of Eaton and also a very -- was a very close friend of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother. If I could just start by asking you, you've met the queen mother just a few weeks ago. How did she seem to you then?

ERIC ANDERSON, FRIEND OF QUEEN MOTHER: Well, she seemed actually surprisingly good, because a number of us from Eaton had gone up for an annual reunion that she used to have at the lodge about 10 minutes away. We had expected that she would not be able to turn up, but would wish the party to go on. But she did turn up, she presided at the table, and she seemed almost her old self.

I believe she spoke to every single person there. She was full of plans for the future, and she even agreed to have asked if she would come to a service at Eaton later in the year.

MURIEL: Because we've heard that she deteriorated rapidly this year, that she got a terrible chest cold. But she seemed quite full of life to you?

ANDERSON: She seemed her vivacious and lively self. The great thing about her she was always so full of life, so interested in everybody who was there. And she really seemed that way a month ago when we saw her.

MURIEL: Now you have known the queen mother for 22 years, I believe.

ANDERSON: I suppose so.

MURIEL: How would you characterize her? What sort of woman was she?

ANDERSON: Well, I have been thinking about in the last couple of hours, obviously, and she must have been the oldest person I ever knew. But my memories of her will that be she was perpetually young, in a quite extraordinary way. She had such a knack of being interested in everybody and being interested in everything, in never harking back to the past, and that she really pressed -- where as most old people are always harking back to the past, she was always interested in what people were doing at the moment and in the future.

And I think it's that extraordinary liveliness and vivaciousness, without any loss of dignity, which was characteristic. But also I think a wonderful way in which she attracted people. I remember going in with her to rooms full of people at Eaton. She used to visit quite often informally (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She would go around and speak to everybody afterward, 100 people. Some of them would be boys, some of them would be masters and some other people who work in the place. She would always make sure she spoke to every single person in the room. And they all left the room feeling the better for having met her.

What was particularly striking, I think, I will always remember is the rapport she had with the very young. We had a lot of boys of 13 or 14. We thought they might have fled at the thought of talking to royalty. Far from it. They flocked around her as though she was their grandmother. She loved them. They knew that. And they loved her. She had this extraordinary art, I think, of attracting people's affection.

MURIEL: She was held in great affection by the people of this country. Why do you think the British were so found of the queen mother?

ANDERSON: Well, she was a very, very remarkable person. She was unique. She is quite irreplaceable. We won't look upon her like again. But I think she represented for us, for the older people among us -- even though obviously most of us who were her later friends were younger than she was -- she did represent something of our past. We knew that she stuck out the war in London, that she'd been bombed in Buckingham Palace, and we liked her for what she represented in the past.

But it was also, I think this wonderful way in which she made everybody feel worthwhile when she spoke to hem. And she did a fantastic job, not only for herself but for the whole country, I think, in making people feel good, making people feel worthwhile. And we are going to miss her terribly.

MURIEL: Now, she lived a very long time, as you said, and she -- she presided over a period of history where the royal family really changed in terms of the general affection in which they were held by the country. What do you think was different about her? Because you know, she really -- was -- quite seemed to be different from the other royals. We have seen people unhappy with perhaps Prince Charles and other members of the royal family, but she was somehow different, wasn't she?

ANDERSON: Well, I don't know whether she was different or not, but she lived by the standards of her youth, which were standards of duty and of -- royalty mattered very much when royalty set an example, and she did all of those things. She was not, though, in the least judgmental. She did not interfere in politics in any way. I think that she quite rightly saw that her duty was to make people feel better for the interest that she was taking in them, and she very, very good at that.

MURIEL: Eric Anderson, provost of Eaton and friend of the queen mother, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

MURIEL: So here we are, that's the scene at Windsor tonight. People coming to pay their respects, friends of the queen mother and people that never knew her, but had seen her on television, had read about her and seen her photograph and felt that they knew her, coming here with floral tributes and cards, paying their respects to a very great lady -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Diana, you know, it seems so remarkable that so many people would so quickly respond by coming there. Most of people who did not know queen mother, only from a distance. What are some of the things that people there are saying about her and what they most love and what they most remember about her?

MURIEL: Well, I think from the people that I have talked to, she was really parts of their lives, for all their lives because she lived for such a long time. And anyone who had ever met the queen mother -- and there have been some people here tonight who told me that they did meet the queen mother on occasion in the past, they really remembered that time. And I think that's what propelled those particular people to come here and pay their respects.

But she was so much a fabric of the national life, appearing at state ceremonies, and she always made a tremendous effort, even when she was quite ill, to turn up to big events. For example, she was -- insisted to turning up to the funeral of her daughter, Princess Margaret, just a few weeks ago, when she herself was very ill. So people have great respect, great affection for her, and are coming to demonstrate that here tonight. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much, Diana Muriel from Windsor Castle this evening. And the body of the queen mother will likely be taken to All Saints Church -- Chapel, rather, for five days, where it will lie in state before a formal ceremonies of her funeral are to begin.




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