Florence Neville is my wife’s 3rd cousin 1x removed. Her parents are Charles Neville and Sarah Jane Espley. Their common ancestors are James Espley and Martha Silvester – my wife’s 3x great grandparents.
Florence was born on 26 October 1905 in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
In the 1911 census Florence is living at 126 Sandford Street, Lichfield. She married Philip James Neale sometime in the September quarter of 1931.
When the 1939 Register was taken, at the outbreak of WW2, Florence and Philip are living at 165 Lower Sandford Street. About sixteen years later they took over running the Queens Head pub also on Sandford Street.
During all this time Florence was a true Royalist – and very proud of it. So much so that her devotion to the Royal Family was reported in the local newspapers a couple of times.
The Lichfield Mercury of Friday 20 August 1982 recalls the visit by the Queen Mother to Lichfield in July 1942 (images from http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
Forty years on – but Florence remembers
ROYALIST and proud of it – that’s Florence Neale, landlady of the Queen’s Head pub in Lichfield.
And Florence has proof of her devotion hanging in the lounge bar of the pub – a photograph of herself and her 15-month-old daughter Linda taken with the Queen Mother 40 years ago.
Florence, now 76, waited with the crowds outside Lichfield Cathedral during a Royal visit in 1942.
And now a grown-up Linda and her mum give the photograph pride of place beside other portraits of the Queen.
‘I can remember leaving Linda’s pram near Stowe Pool and walking the rest of the way. We didn’t have to wait long to see her and the next thing I knew she was speaking to us!”
“She was beautiful,” Mrs. Neale added. “The photograph was taken by the Mercury, where I ordered my copy. But this framed picture was bequested to me in a friend’s will.”
Seven years later on Friday 21 April 1989 the Lichfield Mercury reported on the latest visit of the Queen Mother to the city – incidentally 21 April is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.
A Lichfield family that first met the Queen Mother 47 years ago was given VIP treatment for the Royal visit.
Florence Neale, her daughter and son-in-law Linda and Richard MacCormack, other daughter Cynthia McDonald and sister Susan James were all allocated special tickets for the Cathedral service so that they could be presented to the Queen Mother.
The meeting was arranged after Mr. MacCormack wrote to Clarence House telling how his wife, then just 15 months old, and her family had been singled out from the crowd by the Queen Mother during her first visit to the city in 1942. Accompanying King George VI, the then Queen Elizabeth had approached Mrs. Neale outside the Cathedral to comment on her beautiful curly haired baby daughter.
The moment was captured by a Mercury photographer and Mr. MacCormack, landlord of the Queen’s Head pub, in Lichfield, enclosed the old press cuttings with his letter to London asking if the family could meet the Queen Mother again.
“We wondered if we would even get a reply and we never thought she would stop to speak to us.” said Mr. MacCormack afterwards.
But at the start of the Cathedral service, the family was ushered to one side to be presented to the Queen Mother. And Mr. MaCormack was able to show the Royal visitor the treasured framed photograph of the first meeting, which now hangs proudly in the lounge of the pub, pointing out the family.
“It was wonderful, I was filled with emotion.” said Mrs. Neale, who gave the Queen Mother a posy of roses and spring flowers. “She thanked me and said what lovely memories she had of Lichfield.”
After the meeting the Queen Mother’s Private Secretary Sir Martin Gilliat came over to the family to reveal that Her Majesty had recalled the wartime visit while looking at the Mercury cuttings during her helicopter flight to the city.
What a smashing story and lovely memories for the family.