In those days, the president Juan Manuel Santos he felt privileged. He had just received the Nobel Peace Prize and would become the first and only Colombian leader to be received on a state visit by the queen. Isabel II.
“Everything was so majestic, so understated,” he remembers. However, it was she who displayed her British humor to provoke laughter from those present.
(You can read: The secret letter left by Queen Elizabeth II and cannot be opened until 2085)
The former president recalls that the journey that the lavish carriage that transports personalities from the square where they receive military honors to Buckingham Palace must travel is considerable. That day was especially full of Colombians waving the tricolor flag. The hubbub was evident.
“Then the queen suddenly looks at them and says to me: ‘Tell me, are those ours or not?’”. She asked the question because, amused, she told him that, on several occasions, she had to face very strong protests against the heads of state.
“She was an extraordinary being, with incomparable simplicity and warmth,” recalls Mauricio Rodríguez, Colombian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who met her in February 2010.
Due to her sovereign rank and the responsibility that weighed on her shoulders, she had communication codes that were different from those of others, but she always showed empathy to speak to her interlocutors about the subject they were addressing.
Thus, for example, after the earthquake in Armenia, he received Ambassador Humberto de la Calle Lombana and expressed his willingness to help the victims.
“She was absolutely informed about the victims, her call to help them was enormous”, says the now senator and the one who led the negotiating team of the Colombian State that achieved peace with the FARC.
“That was a topic of great interest to him,” adds Santos, who worried him a lot. In fact, at the request of Colombia, England became the United Nations Security Council in what they call the pen holder; the pen for resolutions on the subject, in this case, the Colombian peace process.
Statistics show that never since the United Nations Security Council was created have so many unanimous resolutions been passed in support of a process of these characteristics.
Analysts believe that this is the best proof of the support sent from London in favor of Colombia for the friendship ties that unite the two peoples. Some mutual ties of affection that former presidential candidate Noemí Sanín also highlights, who also shared when she was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom, during the government of Álvaro Uribe.
(You can also read: Isabel II: this is how King Carlos III found out that the monarch was dying)
The queen’s quest for peace
The search for peace and union by the queen in different parts of the planet was one of the traits of Elizabeth Alejandra María Windsor from June 2, 1953, when she was crowned, although on occasions she did so by sending powerful messages that They had more echo than his words.
It has been written, for example, that relations between Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher were not the best. In 1986, the Commonwealth demanded sanctions against the racist regime in South Africa. The so-called ‘iron lady’ did not hide that for her Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned and leader of the black majority, was a terrorist. Later it was learned that the queen, on her part, maintained indirect contacts with him.
Ten years later, in 1996, without Thatcher, Elizabeth II received Mandela and treated him with honor at Buckingham Palace, where he stayed.
Santos remembers that this palace is a museum in its entirety. Although it looks cold from the outside, its interior stands out for its luminosity, the objects, the paintings, and each of its furniture breathe elegance.
The former Colombian president and his wife, María Clemencia Rodríguez, can say that they have been one of the very few Colombians who stayed there. An honor that even his children did not have, who stayed at the embassy.
In that sober setting, he experienced an unforgettable anecdote. For the banquet of honor, the president could not find the pants of the suit that had been arranged because apparently there was a confusion with that of his son-in-law.
“They were pants that didn’t fit me because they belonged to a person who was much thinner and much taller than me. In 10 minutes Queen Elizabeth II is waiting for me, what do I do? So I panicked. The aide-de-camp came out and saw our chief of protocol and told him ‘I need his pants for the president’, he took them off, gave them to us and they fit perfectly”.
“She was a great friend of Colombia, always,” says Humberto de la Calle
This is a notorious compliment for a woman of her importance. “Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built,” declared Liz Truss, precisely the last prime minister of the United Kingdom appointed by her.
“She has been our longest-running monarch. It is an extraordinary achievement to have presided with such dignity and grace for 70 years. Her life of service extended beyond most of our memories. In return, she was loved and admired by people in the UK and around the world, ”argued Boris Johnson’s successor.
This feeling is shared by Colombians who knew her. All agree that she inspired great respect for her role in recent history and the humanity that she reflected in her treatment.
(Video: hard blow of a guard who guarded the body of Queen Elizabeth II)
In fact, to have held so much power, those who were with her remember her grace when conversing. “She knew how to make a great note at the right time,” they say.
Hence, despite her longevity, she lent herself to interact with the new generations through messages that were seen all over the planet. One of them, for example, when she “jumps” by parachute for the opening of the London Olympic Games, escorted by James Bond, 007, and another when before the ceremony of the II Platinum Jubilee she had tea in the impressive halls of Buckingham Palace with the cinematographic Paddington Bear.
In the 98 World Cup in France, David Beckham eliminated Colombia when he scored a superb free kick to make it 2-0 in favor of England.
The now former player quietly queued for 12 hours to access the funeral chapel in the iconic Westminster Hall. “I am really saddened by the death of Her Majesty,” the 47-year-old former player said, through tears.
(You can continue reading: The history of the 24-carat gold Nintendo made for Queen Elizabeth II)
“It was natural to love her so much. Because of her impressive dedication to service, of personal sacrifice in favor of the United Kingdom and Colombia”, says former Ambassador Rodríguez.
ARMANDO NEIRA GOYENECHE
Policy Editor EL TIEMPO
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Goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II: the memories of the Colombians who knew her