RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The second Elizabethan Era came to an end Thursday with the death of Queen Elizabeth II. But her reign, thousands of miles from Virginia, hit close to home even in Richmond. One child, who had the opportunity to meet the monarch personally, shared her story with 8News more than 15 years later.
In May of 2007, the queen visited Virginia for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Sen. Tim Kaine was serving as governor at the time and escorted the monarch and her husband through Capitol Square as local residents sought the chance to see the historic figure.
Hayley Hassett, then 10 years old, was fortunate enough to speak with Queen Elizabeth II, face-to-face.
“We waited a very long time, but it was worth the wait,” she told 8News back in 2007. “I think I’ll remember this forever.”
More than 15 years later, Hassett has held on to the memories with the help of scrapbooks, from that Thursday in May, made by her mother and grandmother.
“Out of all the Richmond City Public Schools, my public school was picked, which was Mary Munford Elementary School, and then, in fourth grade, you learn about Jamestown. So they did a popsicle stick system, and whoever picked the smallest popsicle stick out of the fourth-grade classes got to go, and so my teacher did,” Hassett said, speaking with 8News on Friday. “I ended up holding the flowers at the time that [the queen] was walking down the little aisle to get to the state capitol […] and Prince Philip came over to me and he asked me if I would like to give those to the queen, and I said, ‘Yes,’ and he picked me up over the fence, and I walked up to the queen.”
Hassett said she didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation at the time, but has always held on to the sound of the queen’s voice.
“She said, ‘You’re so kind,'” Hassett said. “I can hear it still, and I think that stood out to me the most because it happened really fast.”
After Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Richmond, Hassett wrote a letter to Buckingham Palace, which was answered by the queen’s lady-in-waiting, including fact sheets in an envelope marked “Royal Mail.” Photos from Hassett’s meeting with the queen, along with her rough draft letter to Buckingham Palace and the typed response from the United Kingdom, as well as newspaper clippings and DVDs of local news coverage were placed in a scrapbook.
Hassett also held on to a handwritten scrapbook of the events of that day in May of 2007, put together by her grandmother, who Hassett described as a huge fan of the queen.
“My grandmother was just over-the-moon about it,” she said. “My grandmother and I were really close.”
Hassett’s grandmother has since passed away. But she held on to a letter that her grandmother had also written to the queen and the response received from Buckingham Palace.
More than a decade and a half after she met Queen Elizabeth II, Hassett said she was saddened to hear of the monarch’s death on Thursday.
“She is such an icon and such a role model,” Hassett said. “The first thing I thought of was I was so excited that my grandmother, who passed away two years ago, was going to get to meet the queen in heaven. So I thought that was really special.”