9 September 2022

Her Majesty The Queen

Director of Kew, Richard Deverell, pays tribute to Her Majesty The Queen.

By Richard Deverell

Her Majesty The Queen at Kew Gardens

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our Monarch for 70 years, Her Majesty The Queen.

She led a remarkable life which embodied the very essence of duty and public service and, in doing so, inspired people here in the UK and throughout the world.

Despite the grandeur of her status as monarch, she also radiated a warmth and kindness. Her humanity touched many of us and was, I believe, an extremely important part of her role. She represented a remarkable continuity which, perhaps, is particularly appreciated during turbulent times.

Today we witness the end of the Elizabethan era. 

Her Majesty The Queen
Her Majesty The Queen. The Royal Household © Crown Copyright

Aged 21, in a historic broadcast in South Africa, the young Princess Elizabeth vowed to dedicate her entire life to our service. This is exactly what she has done. I find it extraordinary that she was still fulfilling her constitutional obligations earlier this week, aged 96.

Her lifelong commitment to public service is an incredibly powerful and inspiring example to all of us working in the public sector.   

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a royal institution – our landscape and collections are all royal assets.

Her Majesty The Queen visited Kew Gardens many times during her long reign. I was fortunate to meet her during her final visit to Kew in 2009, on the occasion of our 250th anniversary when she planted a ginkgo tree close to the Orangery. This is within the portion of the Gardens where her distant ancestor, Princess Augusta, Mother of George III, started the botanical collections at Kew. 

HM The Queen planting a tree in Kew Gardens
HM The Queen planting a tree in Kew Gardens © RBG Kew
HM The Queen planting a tree in Kew Gardens
HM The Queen planting a tree in Kew Gardens © RBG Kew

I was also extremely privileged to be invited to have lunch with Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. Despite the magnificence of the setting, she was wonderfully welcoming and quickly put each of her six guests at ease.

I recall her talking with great admiration about the parks in central London and how important it was for everyone to have access to green spaces. Her radiance, curiosity and enthusiasm were charming and infectious.

On departing, I asked a member of staff why I had been invited and he said simply that Her Majesty The Queen likes to understand institutions that matter to her and, indeed, she had asked many questions about Kew and our work.   

It is our great honour at Kew to have His Majesty The King as our Patron. King Charles III is a passionate advocate for nature and the environment and has been a keen supporter of Kew’s work, in particular on plant conservation. 

May I offer His Majesty our heartfelt condolences on the passing of his Mother and wish him our full support and gratitude as he commences his duties as our Monarch. 

Her Majesty The Queen embodied duty, dignity, courage and steadfastness. She leaves a great void in British public life and throughout the Commonwealth. She will be greatly missed. 

A black and white photo of Her Majesty outside Kew's Orangery building
Her Majesty The Queen at Kew © RBG Kew

Earlier this year we celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by installing a trail through Kew's living collection, which is still in place.

Visitors to our Gardens may wish to explore this trail during the coming weeks and months as a fitting commemoration of Her Majesty's lifelong commitment to service and the Commonwealth.

Find out more about our Platinum Jubilee trail at Kew Gardens