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Friend: Queen Mum 'always so full of life'

Anderson: "She did a fantastic job not only for herself, but for the whole country in making people feel good, in making people feel worthwhile."  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Dignitaries, friends and citizens reflected Saturday on the Queen Mother, recalling her love of life and connection with people.

Eric Anderson, the provost of the British boarding school Eton, talked with CNN's Diana Muriel about his royal friend of the past two decades.

DIANA MURIEL: You saw the Queen Mother just a few weeks ago. How did she seem to you then?

ERIC ANDERSON: Actually, she seemed surprisingly good.

A number of us from Eton had gone up for an annual reunion that she used to have at Royal Lodge, which is only 10 minutes away (from her London home). We had expected that she wouldn't actually be able to turn up, but would wish the party to go on. But she did turn up, she presided at table, and she seemed almost her old self.

Queen Mother


I believe she spoke to every single person there. She was full of plans for the future. And she even agreed to, and in fact asked if she could come to a service at Eton later this year.

MURIEL: 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 was that 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: You have known the Queen Mother for 22 years, I believe. What sort of woman was she?

ANDERSON: She must have been the oldest person that I ever knew, but my memories of her will be that she was perpetually young, in a quite extraordinary way.

She had such a knack for being interested in everybody, of being interested in everything, in never harking back to the past unless you really pressed her -- whereas most old people are always harking back to the past.

She was always interested in what people were doing in the moment and in the future. That extraordinary liveliness and vivaciousness without any loss of dignity [was all] characteristic, [as was] the wonderful way in which she attracted people.

I remember going in with her to rooms full of people at Eton. She used to visit quite often informally, and the boys would lay a little concert on her. She would go on to speak to everybody afterward, a hundred people.

Some of them would be boys, some would be masters, some would be other people who worked at the place. She would always make sure that she met with every single person in the room, and they all left the room feeling the better for having met her.

What was particularly striking, I'll always remember, was the rapport she had with the young. We had a lot of boys of 13 or 14. You would have 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 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 fond of the Queen Mother?

ANDERSON: She was a very, very remarkable person. She was unique; she's quite irreplaceable. We won't look on her like again. But I think that she represented for the older people among us -- even though most of 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 London. And we liked her for what she represented of the past.

But it was also this wonderful way that she made everyone feel worthwhile when she spoke to them. And she did a fantastic job not only for herself, but for the whole country in making people feel good, in making people feel worthwhile. We're going to miss her.

MURIEL: We've seen people unhappy with Prince Charles and other members of the royal family, but she was somehow different, wasn't she?

ANDERSON: I don't know if she was different or not. But she lived by the standards of her youth, which were standards of duty and where royalty mattered very much and where royalty set an example. And she did all those things. She wasn't, though, in the least judgmental, she didn't 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 was very, very good at that.




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