'Less frightening' Queen enjoys engaging day with soldiers

Updated: 

The Queen has said soldiers are now more engaging with her - suggesting that she has become "less frightening" with age.

Her Majesty, who is The Royal Welsh regiment's Colonel-in-Chief, made the comment during a lunch at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire.

She was at the barracks to present leeks to the regiment to mark St David's Day, which fell earlier this week.

The 90-year-old monarch, dressed in heather and fuchsia, inspected a parade of 600 soldiers from the back passenger seat of a Range Rover.

During the parade, she met regimental goats Shenkin and Llywelyn and presented 12 leeks dipped in gold to cadets, troops and veterans.

Major General James Swift, Colonel of The Royal Welsh, accompanied the Queen during her visit to the barracks.

"Today has been one of the most important days in our soldiers' lives," he said.

"Almost all of them will never have the opportunity again but the memory will live with them forever.

"The Queen let me in on a secret, she is very fond of her regiments.

"The Royal Welch Fusiliers was one of the first three regiments that she was given by her father so she has a special connection with it.

"It is 65 years since she took over as Colonel-in-Chief. She commented at lunch how much more engaging soldiers are these days.

"She thinks it is because she is now a little older that she is now a little less frightening, which gives you a view of her humility."

The Queen, wearing a coat and dress by Karl Ludwig and a hat by Angela Kelly, arrived at the rainy parade square and stood on the dais to take the royal salute.

She then inspected the parade, comprising of soldiers from five regiments, and smiled at well-wishers waving Union flags from the back seat of the Range Rover.

Goats Shenkin and Llywelyn were also on parade in accordance with a Royal Welsh tradition dating back to the late 1700s.

The Royal Welsh Band from Cardiff performed during the parade.

The Queen presented the leeks - wrapped in red thread and dipped in gold - to be pinned to the soldiers' hats.

In a short address, she said it was a "great pleasure" to celebrate St David's Day with the regiment, to present the leeks and meet new mascot Llywelyn.

"The British Army, perhaps more than any in the world, has always lived through the regiment and the regimental tradition," she said.

"In the hour of battle it has repeatedly relied on these bonds, on the pride and comradeship of men who would sooner die than betray the traditions of their corps, or be unworthy of the men of old who fought before them under their colours.

"This is reflected in your regimental motto, Death Rather Than Dishonour. I see that same pride and comradeship in parade before us today and I am certain that the regiment is in good hands.

"I wish you all good fortune for the future."

The parade concluded with three cheers - with the troops lifting their berets into the air - and a royal salute.

The Queen was driven to the officers' mess, where she met soldiers and their families and viewed displays demonstrating the regiment's capabilities.

She received a vakacobocobo - a traditional Fijian greeting for royalty - from Corporal Joshua Vosakiwaiwai, 39, originally from Suva.

"When you meet royalty you sit down and you clap three times - that's what I did," the rugby coach said.

"She said 'I think I know where you are from'."

Cpl Vosakiwaiwai first met the Queen as a seven-year-old schoolboy, when she visited Fiji in 1983.

"When I left Fiji I said the only person I want to meet before I finish is the Queen - now I have," he added.

The Queen's association with The Royal Welsh and its former regiments dates back to her coronation, when she was colonel-in-chief of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. 

She first presented new colours to the Royal Welch Fusiliers - whose brooch she wore during the visit on Friday - in 1954.

In 2006, she became Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Welsh following their amalgamation.

The Royal Welsh unites the regular, reserve and cadet infantry battalions of The Royal Welch Fusiliers (23rd Foot) and The Royal Regiment of Wales (24th/41st Foot) in the Principality of Wales.

It has gained 244 battle honours and 43 of its soldiers have received the Victoria Cross - Britain's highest award for valour.