It was 23 October 1997 and I was working with Bhorer Kagoj at the time. The Commonwealth summit was held in the beautiful city of Edinburgh that year. Queen Elizabeth attended the inauguration for the first time and delivered a speech at the event. She also invited selected journalists to tea at the Holyrood Palace and spent some time with them.
We journalists from Bangladesh reached the Holyrood Palace a little before 11 in the morning that Friday. The other guests hadn't arrived as yet. I recall, we had walked there in the cool weather. We had the opportunity to speak to Queen Elizabeth, her husband Prince Philip and others. At the invitation of the British government, we visited Edinburgh as well as London. And before the start of the Commonwealth summit, we took part in a seminar of journalism at the city Stirling. I would send back a report every day and that would be published in Bhorer Kagoj. On 26 October 1997, my brief report on the Queen's invitation for tea was published on the front page of Bhorer Kagoj. The report is reproduced here:
The Queen was happy to hear the stage was still there at Ramna Park
I had come from Bangladesh so I asked her if she would visit the country again. Queen Elizabeth replied, your prime minister has invited me to visit. I said, you visited India and Pakistan recently. The queen said, but I did go to Bangladesh.
I mentioned her Dhaka visit and she said I visited Dhaka way back in 1961. She was visibly happy to hear that the stage that had been erected at Ramna Park to accord her a reception, was still here.
The queen visited Bangladesh one more time in 1984.
Queen Elizabeth said, I know about some of your problems, adding that Prince Charles had visited Bangladesh in May.
The queen has this conversation with this correspondent at 11 in the morning of 23 October, at a reception she had accorded to selected journalists attending the Commonwealth summit.
When I told the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, that we had published news of his concern for the protection of the Sundarbans in our newspaper, he smiled and said, "That Royal Bengal Tiger! Is the number of the Royal Bengal Tiger decreasing or increasing?" I said it is decreasing, as far as I know. He seemed concerned.
It may be mentioned here that Prince Philip plays a leading role in the campaign for the protection of wild life.
When I introduced myself to the queen's daughter Princess Anne, she smiled and said, I have visited Bangladesh twice, though I don't quite remember the year of the date. Perhaps I will visit again at any opportunity. Princess Anne is the chief patron of the British organisation Save the Children.
After the round of introductions at the reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the guests were led to the Throne Room of the palace. It was there that these brief conversations took place. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip spoke to all the guest journalists there.
* Matiur Rahman is the Editor of Prothom Alo