World·Royal Fascinator

Meeting the Queen online a 'humbling honour' for retired B.C. physician

A retired family physician in Nanaimo, B.C., met with Queen Elizabeth in a virtual session, where she honoured him for his work in drowning prevention.

Dr. Stephen Beerman presented with award in virtual session with monarch

During a virtual session with the Royal Life Saving Society, Queen Elizabeth spoke with Dr. Steve Beerman of Nanaimo, B.C., seen in the lower right of the screen. (Buckingham Palace)

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For Dr. Steve Beerman, it was in many ways like having a pleasant conversation with his 92-year-old mother.

Except it wasn't his mother. It was the Queen.

Beerman, a retired family physician in Nanaimo, B.C., spoke with Queen Elizabeth online the other day as she gave him — virtually — an award recognizing his longstanding work in drowning prevention.

"I'm very delighted to be able to present you with this cup, a very large cup, which one day you might see if you come to London," Elizabeth told Beerman as she honoured him with the King Edward VII Cup during the virtual session with the Royal Life Saving Society.

Beerman, co-chair of the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition, was quick to reply that it was "a pleasure and a humbling honour to be with you."

Being with the Queen in this way has become the way of the royal world during the pandemic. Many observers have said that virtual sessions involving the Queen have offered new insight into the 95-year-old monarch, who has more often been seen from afar, giving formal speeches or doing a walkabout.

Beerman, upper right, shows a medal that was part of his award for his work in drowning prevention. (Buckingham Palace)

"Many people who commented to me about the interview [said] that they had never seen her have what they would describe as a nearly normal conversation with some people," Beerman said.

"My own mother is 92. This was not a whole lot different than talking to my own mother."

Beerman, a trustee with the Royal Life Saving Society, had met the Queen at Buckingham Palace a handful of times in connection with that Commonwealth organization. But his most recent session with her was memorable in a new way.

"It was more chatty," he said. "It was more communicative than when I've experienced these encounters in real life, face to face. So I thought this was actually a better way to do this."

A seven-minute video of the session involving Beerman and others honoured for their drowning prevention efforts was posted online, but the overall virtual encounter lasted about 20 minutes, and came after participants had two practice sessions.

"In the second one, we actually rehearsed what we were going to say and we were coached in a very nice way by the people from the royal household about pausing and being slow enough to allow her to interject with comments or questions," Beerman said. "We were very much encouraged to participate in a conversation as opposed to doing an acceptance speech."

WATCH | Queen Elizabeth speaks with the Royal Life Saving Society:

Still, there was a bit of nervousness for Beerman as the call began.

"There's always some nerves about are you going to misstep or say something in a way you might regret or that might be perceived to be awkward by others," he said.

As the conversation progressed, Elizabeth shared her own memories of receiving a life-saving award as a teenager.

In 1941, she became the first person in the Commonwealth to receive the Royal Life Saving Society's junior respiration award.

"I didn't realize I was the first one — I just did it, and had to work very hard for it," Elizabeth said. "It was a great achievement and I was very proud to wear the badge on the front of my swimming suit. It was very grand, I thought."

Beerman has met Queen Elizabeth several times at Buckingham Palace in London. (Submitted by Steve Beerman)

Beerman sees the shift to the virtual world for the Royal Family as a signal the House of Windsor can change with the times.

"I think it's a strong statement of ... we can pivot when we need to, we are flexible, adjustable and, like the rest of the world, we have to respond to the reality that we live within."

The deceit behind the Diana interview 

‘Deceitful tactics’ used to get famous Princess Diana interview

The National

2 months ago
An inquiry found former BBC journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful tactics,” including creating fake bank statements, to secure his famous 1995 interview with Princess Diana. 2:16

The interview was as devastating as it was haunting.

And now, 26 years after Diana, Princess of Wales, sat down with a BBC journalist and told the world "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," an inquiry has found that Martin Bashir acted deceitfully to gain the interview.

It's a finding that will echo through both the royal and journalistic worlds.  

In response, Princes William and Harry both made statements that lay bare the deep pain the interview with their mother has left with them.

"It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others," William said in his statement. "It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her."

But what saddens William the most, he said, "is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived."

Diana, Princess of Wales, stands with Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles on William's first day at Eton College in Eton, England, in September 1995, two months before the interview Diana recorded with BBC journalist Marin Bashir was broadcast. (Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Diana was failed, he said, "not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions."

Prince Harry said their mother "was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave and unquestionably honest." 

He said what "deeply concerns" him is that similar journalistic practices are still widespread.

"Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let's remember who she was and what she stood for."

Observers suggest it will all have a significant impact on how the BBC is viewed.

"It shakes the real core of journalism because people will no longer look to that broadcaster and trust them wholly because we now know that they're prepared to lie to coerce people into taking part in interviews," marketing consultant Diana Young told the CBC's Tesa Arcilla.

Diana and Prince Charles were divorced in 1996. She died after a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Babies and the line of succession

Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are expecting their first child in the fall. (Peter Byrne/Press Association via The Associated Press)

Word this past week that Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, are expecting their first child will add yet another shuffle in short order to the line of succession.

The child, due sometime this fall, will be the 12th great-grandchild for the Queen, and the fourth baby to arrive in a matter of months.

Beatrice's younger sister, Princess Eugenie, and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, welcomed their son, August, in February.

The following month, Princess Anne's daughter Zara, and her husband, Mike Tindall, welcomed their son Lucas.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are expecting a daughter, with a due date thought to be in early summer.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor at Windsor Castle on May 8, 2019. Harry and Meghan are expecting a girl, likely in early summer, who will follow her brother in the line of succession and come in at No. 8.

That baby will take the highest spot in the succession among the new arrivals, landing at No. 8, following her father, Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne and Harry and Meghan's first child, Archie, now sitting at No. 7.

The passage of time can mean marked shifts in the line of succession for those who enter it somewhat lower in the roster. 

Take, for example, Sarah Chatto, daughter of Princess Margaret. When she was born in 1964, she was No. 7. Now, she is 26th.

Royally quotable

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles stand next to a tree he planted on the grounds of Windsor Castle in March to launch the Queen's Green Canopy, a U.K.-wide tree planting initiative created to mark her Platinum Jubilee next year, recognizing 70 years on the throne. (Chris Jackson/Getty Image/Reuters)

"Planting a tree is a statement of hope and faith in the future." — Prince Charles, in a video posted online to mark the launch of the Queen's Green Canopy, a tree-planting initiative to mark Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee next year that aims to enhance the environment now and for future generations.

Royal reads

  1. Prince Harry says the pain of Diana's death pushed him to drinking and drugs. The Duke of Sussex's latest comments, along with further criticism of how he said the Royal Family neglected both him and his wife, Meghan, came in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in The Me You Can't See, a new Apple TV series about mental health that debuted Friday. [CBC]

  2. Queen Elizabeth's first major ceremonial duty since the death of her husband, Prince Philip, came during a scaled-down state opening of Parliament. [The Independent]

  3. Prince Michael of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, has denied reports he was willing to use his royal status for personal profit and provide access to the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. [BBC] 

  4. There was lots of taffeta and no tantrums during the creation of  the wedding dress for Diana, Princess of Wales, recalls one of its designers. [The Guardian]

  5. One of the Queen's two new puppies, which she reportedly received a few months ago from Prince Andrew for companionship, has died. [The Daily Mail]

  6. The succession for the British throne is clearly laid out, but succession can in some other countries be considerably more complicated. [The Guardian]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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