Australian monarchist recalls ‘warm and engaging’ moment with Queen Elizabeth

(Reuters) – An Australian city councilman who met Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on her final trip to his country in 2011 remembered a warm and engaging monarch who showed a genuine interest in his life.

“She chatted to us, and I’m sure she had conversations like that a thousand times a day but, when you spoke to her, it felt one-on-one and genuine,” said Ben Mitchell, as he recalled his encounter in Perth with the queen, who died last week, aged 96. Tens of thousands of people lined the route of the queen’s coffin on Sunday as it made its way to the Scottish city of Edinburgh, the first stop on a journey that will end in a state funeral on Sept. 19 in London.

Mitchell and his friends, who had driven two hours to meet the queen, were standing against a barricade among a crowd of thousands when she and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, approached them. “It wasn’t just a courtesy, ‘I-have-to-do-this’ sort of thing, she did actually engage and asked about us,” he added.

Mitchell grew up in regional Western Australia before settling in Maitland in the state of New South Wales almost 10 years ago. The youngest candidate elected to the Maitland council, he is now in his second term.

A member of the Australian Monarchist League, Mitchell says he likes the fact that the monarchy is apolitical. Fellow millennials are the most “monarchist generation”, he said, despite renewed calls for Australia to become a republic. Prince Philip was 99 when he died in April last year.