Grand Bahama News

Grand Bahama’s royal connections

Grand Bahamians have joined the world to reflect on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and her 70 years of service.

Although the queen visited The Bahamas in 1966, 1975, 1977 and 1985, her first visit to Grand Bahama was with her husband Prince Philip in March 1994, when the royal couple stopped in Freeport before traveling to Nassau.

Former Free National Movement (FNM) Cabinet minister Neko Grant was in the crowd that welcomed Her Majesty and Prince Philip at Grand Bahama International Airport for a day that included ceremony and socializing.

“She officially opened Hugh Campbell Primary School, Garret Levarity Justice Centre, toured the Lucayan resort property and had lunch at the residence of the late Sir Jack Hayward, (the former co-chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority), he said.

Longtime Freeport resident Margo Miller said the luncheon was memorable.

“It was a beautiful event,” Miller said.

“I think we were well over 50 guests and we were inside and outside, too. My friend Tony Crane and I met her as she came out to the gardens, we curtsied and she greeted us – it was exciting. I remember when they left, watching her walk around into the Rolls Royce they had for her, and laughing at our good friend Keith Griffiths, who owned the car and served as the chauffeur, too.”

Grand Bahama News was given access to the historical archives of the luncheon by the new owners of the former Hayward home in the Royal Palm Way area. The photos show the preparation, decoration and memorabilia, including menus and invitations, from the lunch.

“We also have the home’s guest book which she and Prince Phillip signed,” explained Shelagh Paton Ash.

“We were also fortunate to meet Prince William and Katherine when they were here in March, and they were very generous and signed the guest book as well.”

Sir Jack Hayward’s son, Rick Hayward, remembers the luncheon well and said that the organizing got a bit frantic at times with everyone so excited about the visit and so many details to attend to.  

Hayward, 70, attended school at Gordonstoun with Prince Charles, now King Charles III, and the prince stayed with the Haywards following his visit to Nassau for The Bahamas Independence ceremonies in 1973.   

Hayward recalled his father traveling by train with Her Majesty in the UK on social visits.

“She was remarkable in that she made you feel relaxed in her company,” said Hayward.

“They did their research and knew something about you or a connection to them if you were to sit next to them at dinner – amazing.”

The family of Hayward’s wife, Alexandra Sitwell, is also great friends with the royals. 

Hayward said his mother-in-law will most likely attend the queen’s royal funeral, scheduled for September 19, as will Lady Henrietta St. George, whose mother was a lady-in-waiting to the queen.

Ann Fortune-Fitzroy, Duchess of Grafton, served as Lady of the Bedchamber from 1953 to 1967 when she was appointed Mistress of the Robes, a post she held until her death in 2021 at the age of 101. 

Her daughter, Lady Henrietta Fitzroy, was married to Edward St. George, Sir Jack Hayward’s business partner in the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), and the couple lived permanently on Grand Bahama for the last 25 years of Edward’s life.

Lady Henrietta is the Patron of the Grand Bahama Children’s Home (GBCH), which was visited on March 26 by Prince William and Katherine, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, during The Bahamas stop on their Caribbean tour. GBCH Director Lesley Davies-Baptista recalls the young royals playing with children at the home.

“Her Majesty’s commitment to service – particularly to seek out those who are marginalized and feel unseen – and her belief that much could be achieved when people work together has been instilled in her grandson HRH Prince William,” said Davies-Baptista.

“They were both so incredibly warm and down-to-earth, so sincerely concerned about the children and their lives, so connected to each child or staff person with whom they spoke – it was incredible to watch.”

Acting Chairman of GBPA Sarah St. George has fond memories of the queen and said she will be greatly missed by all.

“I am deeply saddened by the news,” said St. George.

“The queen may have been 96 but it still feels far too soon to say a final goodbye to her, and such a magnificent, historic, and unparalleled reign. She was an example to us all. My heart and thoughts are with all who mourn her.”

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