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Insider reveals what happened to Queen when she discovered she was taking throne


Ken Clarke’s father (second from the right) just before he flew to Kenya with the princess who was about to become Queen. (Ken Clarke via SWNS)

By Sarah Lumley via SWNS

A family has revealed how their dad flew with Elizabeth II on her famous flight to and from Kenya in 1952 and how she was the ''happiest woman in the world'' leaving as a princess and ''thunderstruck'' returning as Queen.

Ken Clarke had an almost unique glimpse of HRH as she travelled to Nairobi - then when she flew back as monarch following the death of her father.

He was one of just four stewards on board the flight that flew the 25-year-old princess to Kenya in February 1952.

During her trip her father King George VI died suddenly - and she came home early to take the throne.

Ken Clarke proudly shows off his father's photo of the famous 1952 flight with the Queen. (Leila Coker via SWNS)

Ken, who died aged 88 in 2003, told his family how she enjoyed her usual gin and tonic on the way out - but remained booze-free on the way back.

Ken's son, also called Ken, 83, has spoken for the first time about the memories his father shared with him about the famous flight.

He has also shared a never-before-seen photo of his dad from 1952 in front of the plane on which he served the then Princess Elizabeth.

Ken Jnr said: ''It was certainly a very different flight back from Kenya than it had been flying out there.

"My father recalls the Queen flying out as the happiest woman in the world - and then just looking thunderstruck on the way back.

"He said she seemed under an enormous amount of pressure coming home - and all the crew treated her with respect and dignity, with the pilot even shaking her hand.

"My father said the Queen enjoyed the occasional G&T during her travels and on that flight out to Kenya she had at least one. Although she certainly didn't drink on the flight back.

"He revered her from that day. I think a lot of it was to do with how discreetly she had to handle her grief after her father died, I think he was very impressed with that.''

Ken Clarke’s father (middle) just before he flew to Kenya with princess Elizabeth, just before she suddenly became Queen (Ken Clarke via SWNS)

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh flew out the BOAC Argonaut 'Atalanta' on February 1, 1952, at the start of the Royal Tour of Kenya.

On February 6 word arrived of the death of the King and consequently Elizabeth's immediate accession to the throne and she then flew back on February 7.

Ken Snr and his colleagues on the airplane - who are pictured alongside him in the black and white photograph - were responsible for ensuring the royal was looked after.

His duties aboard the now-famous flight included serving her tea, preparing and serving her food - and even making sure her favourite tipple of gin and tonic was ready for her.

And just days later, Ken was "humbled" to fly Elizabeth back to the UK - now as the Queen.

And from his humble beginnings as a steward on board her first royal flight, Ken continued to serve Queen Elizabeth.

He accompanied her on every royal flight for the next 25 years and worked his way up to Senior Service Cabin Director.

Ken Jnr said his father "never forgot" his first time flying with the Queen, and that he described it as "an honor."

Grandfather-of-three Ken, of Irchester, England, said: "My father got the shock of his life when he was selected to be a steward on that flight to Kenya.

"He never expected it to be him. He had worked as a steward for BOAC - now British Airways - since the Second World War ended.

"But when he heard there was going to be a royal flight out to Kenya, he and his colleagues were trying to guess who would be picked to go on it.

"It was a total shock that it was him. I asked him a few times how he got picked for that flight, but he said he had no idea.

"He said it was an honor for him to be there.

''It was my dad and three other stewards who were basically responsible for making sure the Queen was well looked after during her flight.

"They had to make sure the Queen didn't want for anything and make sure she never had to ask for anything.

"They would have been cooking and serving her food in the poky little food preparation space on the plane, and if her glass or cup was empty they had to refill it before she needed to ask.

"The stewards all had the same duties - but I think my father was probably more knowledgeable out of the four of them, as he had served as a steward on cruise ships before the war.

"They also had to sit up while the Queen slept on her couchette - which was like a fold-down bunk - in case she woke up at 3am and wanted a glass of water. There was no downtime for them.

''He was always very proud to say that he had traveled out there with a princess and traveled back with a Queen.

"And I think she's done remarkably well. She has been very resilient, especially with everything she has been through with her family."

Ken has kept hold of his father's black-and-white photo as a prized possession ever since Ken Clarke Snr. passed away almost 20 years ago.

It shows the pilot, co-pilot, three stewards and one stewardess aboard Princess Elizabeth's flight to Kenya, standing in a row in front of the BOAC plane that had carried them all - and seemingly beaming with pride.

Ken said: "I don't think anyone will have ever seen this photo before - except possibly the other stewards who are in it, I'm not sure if they got copies.

"I think it would be lovely if the Queen got to see it. A lot of these faces she won't have seen since that trip to Kenya.

"But she got to know my father quite well over the years. For the next 25 years after that, he was on every royal flight she took, and she got to know him by name.

"He worked his way up from a lowly steward, to Senior Service Cabin Director - which meant he was responsible for planning her food during the flight.

"She usually had at least two meals on a flight - and he said that she and Philip liked a G&T after their meal, so he made sure that was ready for them, too.

"He said she was always very nice and polite to her.

"Apparently Philip could be a bit of a pain in the arse - and there were one or two occasions where the Queen had a sharp word with him and said, 'Don't speak to Mr. Clarke like that.'

"My mother and father were always invited to the Queen's garden parties at Buckingham Palace - and she even gave him a nice leather wallet when he retired in 1977."

And Ken added that his father "revered" the Queen, saying: "He was always pro-royal, but after those first flights when he went with her to Kenya and back, he became very loyal to her.''

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