The Queen opens new Thames Hospice building with Princess Anne


The Queen saw the funny side today when a mobile phone rang at a crucial moment as she officially opened a £22 million hospice building. 

Her Majesty, 96, travelled the short distance from her Windsor Castle home to Maidenhead to formally launch the new home of the Thames Hospice and to meet staff, volunteers and a patient.

But just as the monarch, who was joined at today’s outing by the Princess Royal, was introduced to Graham White and his wife Pat, who has stage 4 cancer and is receiving respite care at the centre, his phone rang and he reached into his pocket to turn it off.

The Queen quipped: ‘Typical, his mobile instantly rings’, and Mr White sheepishly said it was his son ringing.

Her Majesty, who moved with the aid of her now familiar walking stick, looked effortlessly elegant in a blue floral dress when appearing alongside her daughter, Princess Anne, 71, in the Berkshire area this morning.

Just as the monarch, who was joined at today’s outing to Thames Hospice by the Princess Royal, was introduced to Graham White and his wife Pat (pictured right), who has stage 4 cancer and is receiving respite care at the centre, his phone rang and he reached into his pocket to turn it off 

The monarch, who moved with the aid of her now familiar walking stick, looked effortlessly elegant in a blue floral dress when appearing alongside her daughter, The Princess Royal, 71, in the Berkshire area this morning

The monarch, who moved with the aid of her now familiar walking stick, looked effortlessly elegant in a blue floral dress when appearing alongside her daughter, The Princess Royal, 71, in the Berkshire area this morning

The Queen appeared in great spirits today as she made a surprise visit to a hospice with the Princess Royal to open its new centre

The Queen appeared in great spirits today as she made a surprise visit to a hospice with the Princess Royal to open its new centre

Her Majesty stands with Jonathan Jones, Chair of Trustees, after unveiling a plaque during a visit to officially open the new building at Thames Hospice

Her Majesty stands with Jonathan Jones, Chair of Trustees, after unveiling a plaque during a visit to officially open the new building at Thames Hospice

The 96-year-old Queen signs the visitor's book during her appearance this morning, alongside her daughter Princess Anne, 71

The 96-year-old Queen signs the visitor’s book during her appearance this morning, alongside her daughter Princess Anne, 71

For more than 30 years the hospice has been providing palliative and end-of-life care and support to people across East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire – and the new £22 million larger state-of-the-art facility means the centre can care for twice as many patients. 

Its services are free for those who need care, and more than 50 per cent of the £13 million annual running costs come from charitable support.

It took three years of fundraising to hit the £6 million target needed to complete the £22 million build, which first opened its doors in 2020.

Mrs White sat as she chatted to the Queen and afterwards the 63-year-old described the encounter as ‘very emotional’, adding: ‘This is a memory that I will treasure.’

She joked about her husband’s phone ringing, saying: ‘I could have killed him! People think the Queen is all stiff upper lip but she has a sense of humour.’ 

For more than 30 years the hospice has been providing palliative and end-of-life care and support to people across East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire

For more than 30 years the hospice has been providing palliative and end-of-life care and support to people across East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire

The Queen, alongside Princess Anne, right, unveils a plaque during a visit to officially open the new building at Thames Hospice, Maidenhead

The Queen, alongside Princess Anne, right, unveils a plaque during a visit to officially open the new building at Thames Hospice, Maidenhead

On Tuesday, the Queen (pictured left) celebrated the achievements of the NHS across the decades by awarding the institution the George Cross during a ceremony she hosted at Windsor

On Tuesday, the Queen (pictured left) celebrated the achievements of the NHS across the decades by awarding the institution the George Cross during a ceremony she hosted at Windsor

Princess Anne appeared alongside the Queen during this morning's appearance, wearing a stylish check ensemble

Princess Anne appeared alongside the Queen during this morning’s appearance, wearing a stylish check ensemble 

The Queen pictured after unveiling the plaque. The new £22 million larger state-of-the-art facility means the centre can care for twice as many patients

The Queen pictured after unveiling the plaque. The new £22 million larger state-of-the-art facility means the centre can care for twice as many patients

Mr White, 67, from Sandhurst, Berkshire, said: ‘I turned my wife’s phone off and I could have sworn mine was off – that was a bit embarrassing.’

His wife said: ‘The Queen said the building is beautiful and she showed a keen interest in the different treatments for cancer, and hoped the new building would help support all the cancer patients here.’

The former Windsor site of Thames Hospice was opened by the Queen in 1987 and past visitors have included Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Now sited beside a picturesque lake surrounded by trees in nearby Maidenhead, the hospice’s new building features an open plan reception with an airy atrium, a cafe and a shop.

On Tuesday, the Queen joked with NHS leaders and healthcare workers as she hosted a small audience at Windsor Castle to honour Britain’s health service with the George Cross.

The 96-year-old was joined by Prince Charles as she handed out the medal, second only to the Victoria Cross, and heaped praise on NHS leaders from four countries over the UK’s handling of the vaccine roll-out during the pandemic.

The centre's services are free for those who need care, and more than 50 per cent of the £13 million annual running costs come from charitable support. Pictured, the Queen during today's visit

The centre’s services are free for those who need care, and more than 50 per cent of the £13 million annual running costs come from charitable support. Pictured, the Queen during today’s visit

The smiling monarch walks alongside Jonathan Jones, Chair of Trustees, with her beaming daughter Princess Anne walking behind the pair

The smiling monarch walks alongside Jonathan Jones, Chair of Trustees, with her beaming daughter Princess Anne walking behind the pair

The monarch moved with the aid of her now familiar walking stick during the visit today after travelling from her home of Windsor Castle to Thames Hospice

The monarch moved with the aid of her now familiar walking stick during the visit today after travelling from her home of Windsor Castle to Thames Hospice

The Queen looked sophisticated in a blue floral frock, teamed with a black handbag and a shimmering sapphire brooch

The Queen looked sophisticated in a blue floral frock, teamed with a black handbag and a shimmering sapphire brooch 

All in the details: The monarch completed her ensemble with a pair of peal earrings and her statement matching necklace

All in the details: The monarch completed her ensemble with a pair of peal earrings and her statement matching necklace

Looking relaxed, the head of state wore a pretty floral dress for the ceremony, as the royals were joined by frontline workers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Also present was May Parsons, the nurse who delivered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan on December 8 2020.

The Queen was on fine form and when told about the nurse’s historic first, she made her guests laugh with the quip: ‘You’re still alive?’

When the nurse told the Queen: ‘We’re terribly, terribly proud of the vaccination roll-out, it was so successful,’ she replied: ‘Yes it was amazing.’

And when NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard highlighted the tens of millions who have been jabbed, the monarch said ‘tremendous’.

When the Queen asked: ‘And what are you going to do with it?’ with regards to the medal, she was told by Pritchard it would go on a tour of the NHS before being found a permanent home.

Each health executive from the four nations and their frontline colleague came up in turn to receive a George Cross which had been placed on a cushion carried by the Queen’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White.

The Queen touched the cushion in a gesture to symbolise its presentation. 

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Vernon, Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office with responsibility for organising ceremonial events, read out the George Cross citation at the start of the ceremony.

It’s the Queen’s first public engagement since she enjoyed a brief stay at Sandringham. The Queen was spotted travelling back to Windsor last week – after she spent several days at her husband the late Duke of Edinburgh’s former home.

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