On a roll with royal visitors
THERE was nearly a serious Royall incident shortly after the Queen arrived at caravan makers Bailey of Bristol – but this wasn't one of the Duke of Edinburgh's trademark gaffes.
It came from Paul Royall – the factory worker at the Ashton Vale family firm, who had been given the ominous responsibility of driving the Queen and Prince Philip around the site in one of the company's flagship motorhomes.
The 35-year-old, from Filton, who has worked at Bailey's for 15 years, is more familiar with driving the vehicles than anyone – but in a heart-stopping moment, shortly after the royal couple had stepped on board, he attempted to pull away without engaging the van into gear.
There was a gasp from the assembled crowd of Paul's fellow workers, as the royal motorhome rolled backwards on the slope, stopping within inches of the following van, which housed the visiting party's other dignitaries and the royal security personnel.
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"Thankfully it didn't seem quite as dramatic from inside the vehicle as it clearly did to everyone outside," said Paul, who works on the shop floor as a production team leader.
"It was only when I heard the gasp from the crowd that I realised I was rolling backwards with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on board. Luckily I think they hardly noticed.
"I drive these vehicles every day of my working life, and I've never failed to engage first gear before. I suppose it was just nerves. It was all a bit embarrassing, but it didn't really take anything away from the honour I felt at having been chosen to drive the royal couple around the plant."
School children from Ashton Vale Primary, Parson Street Primary, and St Anne's Park Primary were also on hand to welcome the Queen, as she arrived at the opening engagement on her first tour of the city in seven years.
The Queen shone out on an otherwise grey, wet and blustery day, wearing a vibrant pink outfit – a Stewart Parvin dress and matching double-breasted coat with gold buttons, and finished off with a ruby, diamond and gold brooch and a matching pink hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan.
After a quick visit to the offices of the family firm, which next year celebrates its 65th anniversary, the royal couple were given an extensive tour of the factory floor.
The Duke of Edinburgh, with trademark wit, soon spotted the heavy gold chains worn by factory worker Stephen Brock.
"He saw my jewellery and said, 'you don't believe in banks do you?'" the 53-year-old laughed.
The Queen was then shown around the plant by Nick Howard, director of the company, while his brother Simon Howard, the marketing manager, led the Duke around the different stages of production.
"He was very interested in the practicalities of the process," Simon said. "He spent a long time looking at the design drawings for the caravans, and asked lots of questions about the materials used. The Queen seemed more interested in talking to people about their experience of working here."
Scott Magges, 26, a production line worker in the cab shop, said: "The Duke was interested in the caravan bed I was building. He asked how comfortable they were, and joked he wouldn't mind laying down on it himself for a nap."
After a short speech from Nick Howard, the Queen unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit, before getting the chance to step inside one of the company's latest caravans to come off the production line.
But the job of saying goodbye to the royal party fell to the company director's seven-year-old daughter Tamsin Howard, who presented the Queen with a white rose bouquet before her departure.
"It was scary and exciting both at the same time," Tamsin said.
"The Queen asked whether I prefer caravans or motor homes, and I said I like motor homes better."
But Her Majesty left the motor homes behind, in favour of her familiar Bentley as she departed.