Geoff Wright has been following events around Queen Elizabeth’s death with a sense of nostalgia only a few could appreciate.
Before moving from his home in England to New Zealand in 2007, the Kihikihi resident who works in Cambridge was a member of the late Queen’s Household Cavalry’s Mounted Regiment, joining the life guards. He later trained as a farrier and led the care of the hundreds of horses attached to the royal household.
It was a job that saw Geoff take part in the ceremonial pageantry associated with many royal occasions, including the weddings of the then Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. There were state funerals too – his first was for Lord Louis Mountbatten who was assassinated in 1979 – and a host of other state events, including the Trooping of the Colour, state openings of Parliament, duties with the Horse Guards, as well as occasions involving escorts to international heads of state.
His was a world awash with the pomp and precision for which Britain is renowned, and he knows all too well the intricate planning that will be behind everything we are witnessing following the death of Queen Elizabeth.
“I met her on several occasions … she was always very nice, very easy to be with. She and other family members would often come down to see the horses.”
Geoff was also around during darker times. He was there when four men and seven horses were killed in July 1982 when a massive IRA bomb ripped through the regular Changing of the Guard procession, likening the scene that followed at Kensington Barracks to a war zone.
The following day his regiment went ahead with a planned investiture at Buckingham Palace, and it was Andrew Parker-Bowles – the first husband of the now Queen Consort Camilla – who was his commanding officer, leading his troops down the same route where signs of the carnage remained all around them.
There are happier memories, too. “I remember being sat around a table being offered cups of coffee by the then Camilla Parker-Bowles… and there is she now, the Queen Consort.”
Geoff also met James Hewitt, the one-time paramour of the late Princess Diana, and James Blunt (then Blount), the British cavalryman turned singer.
His experiences make him acutely aware of the attention to detail linked to what we are seeing unfolding in the wake of the Monarch’s death.
Geoff, who now lives in Kihikihi and works at BA Pumps in Cambridge, is deeply proud of his connection with Britain and its Royal Family.
“I’m proudest of having served under Her Majesty for all those years,” he said, “and I am lucky enough to now live in the realm of a new king.”