by IRENE FOWLER, Contributor
Priscilla Quoa, a student of Vivian Fowler Memorial College, Lagos, Nigeria, won the 2003 Commonwealth Essay Competition.
Stuart Mole, former Director-General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, thought very highly of Priscilla’s achievement, and decided that Priscilla, and I, as a Director of the college, should be formally included in the 2003 Abuja CHOGM agenda. I was totally amazed when he informed me that we were both to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II.
I prepared a customized commemorative plaque on behalf of the college to present to the Queen, and suggested that Priscilla and her classmates compose a Commonwealth-themed poem to honour her role as the Head of the Commonwealth, which Priscilla would present to her. I divulged my plan to Stuart Mole, and he stressed that the Queen seldom received gifts personally, and such offerings would have to be routed through royal aides. However, a request was relayed to Buckingham Palace.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Stuart Mole, Irene Fowler, and Priscilla Quoa,
at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – Abuja, Nigeria 2003
To my surprise and disbelief, I was informed by Buckingham Palace that the Queen had decided to personally receive our gifts. This was an act of sheer humility and kindness on her part. She unilaterally decided to break with entrenched traditional royal protocol, and also jettison strict security safeguards to favour us. To this day, I am humbled that Queen Elizabeth II honoured us in such a manner.
To read the poem which was presented to Her Majesty:
AN ODE TO QUEEN ELIZABETH II
All hail the Queen and that for which she stands
For majestic splendour we are keen
Her love felt through the lands
The Commonwealth on her leans
October first nineteen sixty
On these shores shone her face
So bright and pleasingly pretty
To us she granted her grace
Through the reaches of time
Even to far away climes
Her legend ever golden
Nations to her glory are beholden
To us her language she endowed
From ages the universe has e’er vowed
Nationalism to her yields
As do noble races and creeds
Democracy in Nigeria reigns
Our blessed nation freedom gained
The beloved Queen again deigns
Nations to lead in her train
With a voice so graceful
In a language delightful
To address our nation
For which we have great admiration
All hail the Queen
High and low, far and near
Such pageantry rarely seen
Gaze in awe and hold her dear!
© 2003 Vivian Fowler Memorial College