Elizabeth McGuinness, owner of Kiwi Country Clothing, has shared the story behind her letter correspondence with Queen Elizabeth II.
The Monaghan native said that her royal connections began with a chance meeting with Lady Elizabeth Harriet Bowes-Lyon, 22nd goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth.
In 2018, Harriet arrived in Elizabeth’s stand at the Highland Show in Scotland, where Elizabeth specialises in possum merino-lined clothing that she discovered from her time in New Zealand. They struck up a unique conversation, as Elizabeth recalls.
“This lady showed up in 2018, very posh, asking about very warm gloves for a very elderly lady with Raynauds. She procrastinated for a very long time about it and I then got a bit tetchy with her.
“I told her to quit procrastinating and buy the gloves, or out of my shop!” Elizabeth laughs.
As the pair spoke more, Harriet learned about more about Elizabeth and her business. By chance, Elizabeth’s desire to write to the Queen was brought up.
“As the conversation progressed, a guy that works with me happened to say to her, ‘Oh she’s calling you a procrastinator, but she’s been procrastinating writing a letter to the Queen for the last seven years.’
“And she says ‘What on earth would you be doing that for?’ So I said to her, ‘I don’t have any time for the monarchy, but I think Queen Elizabeth is utterly amazing to put up with so much over the years!’”
Harriet then disclosed her royal background, and the pair “hit it off famously”.
“She bought the gloves for Queen Elizabeth, and these are the ones we send to farmers.”
“So then I got a letter about a month later from Queen Elizabeth, delighted with the gloves. But Harriet had asked me then to write an account of myself to Queen Elizabeth, to fill in the gaps and tell her about my life, that she’d be really interested to know.
“So the following November, I whacked off a letter, real fast, two A4 pages, typed, didn’t spell check it, funny in parts, very sincere in most of it.
"And I sent her a gift of a pair of black gloves because I told her, leather gloves, there was no heat in them with her handbag going to church, that she needed a proper pair of possum gloves.
“The last couple of years I’ve seen her around Christmas time with her black handbag and standing wherever, and she’s wearing her possum gloves.”
“Harriet had mentioned that her feet were very cold and she wore her wellies a lot in Balmoral, so she bought a pair of possum fur insoles as well. These are the products we sell to farmers in Ireland for the last 10 years.
“So that was all good to go, and then I got a seriously good letter back, second letter, again because of the letter I sent her.
“Harriet tells me then after. . . that the Queen was chuffed with my letter because I reminded her about her visit to Ireland in 2011, and about how she had managed in four days to create a seismic shift in the whole way that Ireland thought about the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth herself.
“I just basically said that she’d done such an utterly amazing job, not just those four days but right through her lifetime and I thought she was a legend. But I was giving out to her in the letter, I said she was making me cry, because I was watching it in New Zealand.”
Out of this amazing story, Elizabeth has found a friend in Harriet. “Harriet and I still talk,” she explains. “We’ve been communicating since 2019.
“So fast forward to Tuesday of this week, I thought I’d better sympathise with Harriet.
“I rang her, and her husband answered the phone. And as soon as I said my name, he says, ‘Oh my God, we were just talking about you at breakfast. My wife wants to talk to you, oh please hold on, hold on.’
“So Harriet came on the phone, and said ‘I don’t believe it! David and I were talking about you and said must give you a ring and see how you are!’
“So we picked up where we left off. Straight away, she reminded me about the farm gloves that Queen Elizabeth got four years ago.”