When Queen Elizabeth II met Paddington Bear

The recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 96, marked the end of 70 years’ dedicated duty to the nation and her subjects.

© Shaun Jeffers / Shutterstock.com

The Queen was inspirational during her seven decades of service, meeting many influential world leaders since she became the sovereign in 1952.

Special meeting

Despite the magnitude of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, one simple and light-hearted event has stood out as being very special to us all. When Queen Elizabeth II met Paddington Bear, the famous animated teddy bear of children’s story books, it struck a chord with thousands of people.

The world-famous marmalade sandwich Jubilee sketch, when the Queen enjoyed afternoon tea with the lovable bear, has become the standout moment everyone remembers from the weekend of pageantry!

Broadcast in June to launch the Platinum Jubilee concert; the public adored the way the Queen showed her sense of humour, entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of fun, while chatting to Paddington over a cream tea and marmalade sandwiches.

The meeting had become more poignant following the Queen’s death, especially since the idea had come from Buckingham Palace, according to screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Royal officials had invited him to co-write a humorous short script with Jon Foster and James Lamont, who wrote the Paddington 3 movie script. It was felt Paddington embodied the values that the Queen believed in, such as being polite, tolerant and kind.

History of Paddington Bear

Recognised all over the world, thanks to his familiar red hat, blue duffel coat and Wellington boots, Paddington Bear was the creation of English author Michael Bond in 1958. Born in Peru, the loveable bear was sent to London by his elderly Aunt Lucy, after being orphaned in an earthquake.

He arrived at Paddington Station with nothing but a small suitcase, wearing a label saying, “Please look after this bear,” tied around his neck. He was found by a friendly couple, the Browns, who took Paddington home to 32 Windsor Gardens, London, to start a new life with their children.

Bond, who died in June 2017, aged 91, based his Paddington character on a toy bear he bought in a shop on Christmas Eve 1956 as a gift for his wife. They called the plush bear Paddington because they lived near the station.

Bond wrote the Paddington stories because they were something he would have read himself as a child. The first book was published by William Collins and Sons on 13th October 1958. Bond said he wanted to create a good role model for children, hence the bear always being polite and kind to others. Humorous, yet often poignant, the stories invariably included Paddington getting into trouble, despite him trying so hard to be good.

Bond wrote 28 Paddington books in total, the last one in April 2017, only weeks before his death. They have been translated into around 30 languages, selling more than 35 million copies all over the world.

Paddington’s love of marmalade

Paddington’s love of marmalade is legendary, and he always carries a jar in his suitcase. His favourite food is marmalade sandwiches. He carries one “for emergencies” under his hat at all times! His Aunt Lucy had taught him how to make them as a child in Peru.

The famous Jubilee sketch begins with the royal butler carrying a tray of afternoon tea through Buckingham Palace. He places it on a table in front of a guest, Paddington Bear, who politely tells Her Majesty, “Thank you for having me,” and wishes her an enjoyable Jubilee.

The smiling Queen, sitting opposite, says, “Tea?” to Paddington in a friendly voice. However, unused to being in royal company, Paddington’s misfortune begins, as he picks up the teapot and drinks the tea directly from its spout! The Queen looks bemused but doesn’t chastise her guest.

The butler clears his throat to alert Paddington to his mistake. Flustered at having inadvertently drunk all the tea, leaving none for Queen Elizabeth, the bear almost drops the teapot! Trying to catch it, he puts his hand down on a cream cake, splattering the butler with cream.

Realising he’s upset, the Queen says kindly, “Never mind,” while continuing to smile warmly at him. Having ruined the cakes and drunk all the tea, Paddington suggests to the Queen, “Perhaps you would like a marmalade sandwich?” and pulls one out from under his hat, telling her, “I always keep one for emergencies.”

In a wonderful twist to the tale, the Queen replies, “So do I,” and pulls out her own marmalade sandwich “for later” from inside her handbag! Paddington is most surprised, but he and the Queen then smile comfortably at one another.

At the end of the sketch, Paddington thanks Her Majesty “for everything” in a heart-warming moment that has become even more moving following her death.

A “lovely goodbye”

Cottrell-Boyce later described the sketch as the “most lovely goodbye” and praised the Queen for how professional she was during filming. In an interview with the BBC, he said it was “significant”, rather than being simply “cute”.

He said the Queen had showed wonderful acting skills, as the animated Paddington wasn’t even sitting at the table. She had been given an eyeline of where to look, while a crew member gave her the verbal cues that were added later with the images of the bear. The Queen had kept the sketch secret from her family for months so it would surprise them too!

The bear’s links with the royal family began with Bond’s book, Paddington at the Palace, in 1986. Paddington also appeared in a pantomime, The Queen’s Handbag, at a children’s party at Buckingham palace during the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations.

The Queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were said to have “beamed and laughed” when they saw her Platinum Jubilee Paddington sketch and were highly entertained by their great-grandma’s performance.

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