Nova Scotia woman remembers the day she came face to face with Princess Elizabeth

·2 min read
Six-year-old Lois Gallagher curtsies before presenting a wreath to Princess Elizabeth in Sydney, N.S., on Nov. 10, 1951. The child took part in a dockside reception welcoming the princess and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. (J. Walter Green/Associated Press - image credit)
Six-year-old Lois Gallagher curtsies before presenting a wreath to Princess Elizabeth in Sydney, N.S., on Nov. 10, 1951. The child took part in a dockside reception welcoming the princess and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. (J. Walter Green/Associated Press - image credit)

It was a chilly day in 1951 when a large crowd gathered along the Sydney waterfront in Cape Breton, N.S., waiting for a glimpse of royalty.

Lois Gallagher Chmiel remembers the streets were lined with people on Nov. 10, 1951. Then six, she was dressed in a bright white dress and a green velvet cape.

She had spent days with nuns from the convent in her then hometown of Whitney Pier, N.S., to perfect her curtsy.

The daughter of Sydney Mayor Tony Gallagher, she was given the task of greeting Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, as they arrived as part of a five-week tour of Canada.

As the couple stepped off the ramp from an impressive ship, Gallagher Chmiel handed them a bouquet of red and white roses.

Submitted by Tonya Dort
Submitted by Tonya Dort

"She thanked me for the beautiful flowers," said Gallagher Chmiel.

"I thought she was beautiful, and he was a handsome man. Now, from a child's perspective, that's what I recall."

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A photo of the occasion shows Gallagher Chmiel with the princess, who is dressed in high heels, a stylish cap and a fur coat.

Not only is the memory etched into Gallagher Chmiel's mind, it also has a special place in her closet.

She said she still has the tiny outfit she wore and the special headpiece, as well as clippings from local newspapers and photographs of her brush with royalty.

And unbeknownst to her at the time, Gallagher Chmiel said her late husband was in the crowd that day waving to a future queen, as his future wife waved back to the crowd.

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"When I open my cedar chest for something and see [the outfit] it brings back memories, naturally it would," she said.

Gallagher Chmiel followed Queen Elizabeth during her 70-year reign.

Federal News Photos/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Federal News Photos/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Gallagher Chmiel, who now lives in Masstown, N.S., said she always felt a special connection to the monarchy, and was sad to hearing of Queen Elizabeth's death at 96 last week.

"She was such a wonderful, personable person," she said. "But you know, her time had come, I guess that's all we can say. It's sad, but she lived a good long life, there's no question."

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