Handshakes with the Royals

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Urban Times January 2014.

From A Childhood Wandering The Streets To Handshakes With Royals

I suppose my interest in the British Royal Family started when I was 7 years old and decided to visit Buckingham Palace in London. Not, you understand, as a guest, but as a young boy from a poor family who desperately wanted a dog, and who had read in the Observer’s book of Dogs that The Queen kept Corgis. I thought that I would go and ask Her Majesty for some advice.

I think the policeman standing outside the gates was intrigued at first but then noticed that this skinny little boy wasn’t with anyone. A call went out and I was duly returned to Bristol about 120 miles away, 18 hours later.

By that time I had developed a way of travelling around the Country by ‘Blending’ with the children of families getting on or off public transport which enabled me to travel almost anywhere in the Country unaided, by either adults, or money.

I had first developed this useful method as a baby of less than three years old when I went missing for 24 hours and was found sleeping in a bush on Horfield Common in Bristol. To gain access to the bus I simply hid and waited until a group of families arrived on the bus stop and then filtered into them by chatting to the other children. Each believed I was with the other which created enough of a disguise for me to get on the bus with them.

My parents had divorced when I was four which resulted in me living between a small caravan in Malmesbury, a little Town in Wiltshire, with my mother and her new husband Ray, and my father’s one bedroom council flat in Bristol.

It was pointed out to me during lunch with HM The Queen & HRH The Duke Of Edinburgh in Bristol during her Majesty’s Jubilee Tour in 2012, that this was a long way from Buckingham Palace, both in terms of location and society.

My early life was not easy and resulted in very little schooling and many lonely times, some of them spent on the street, not due to my parents not caring but because of my hyperactivity and propensity for wondering off. It is because of this time in my life that I understand the dangers associated with being a child alone on the street. I was fortunate. My ability to think things through and calculate the actions of strangers enabled me to reduce the real danger I was constantly in and allow me to live to tell the tale so that others might avoid the danger themselves.

My childhood was a long way from the Royal Palaces and lifestyles enjoyed by The British Monarchy. However I believed then, as I do now, that having a group of influential people who are outside our political system and free to comment as individuals, from a position of detailed knowledge, is useful, if not essential, to the unique sense of democracy experienced within Britain today.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has long been associated with speaking his mind and being his own man, a trait also found in successful Entrepreneurs, so it was with great pleasure that I shook his hand again during his visit to the British Library  in response to an initial verbal invitation from me, and then an official invitation from Roly Keating, the Chief Executive of The British Library and I.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visits The British Library Nov 13, 2013

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visits The British Library Nov 13, 2013

I had little formal education so being part of The British Library and its official Entrepreneur in Residence, as well as one of its Ambassadors, is important to me. Under Roly Keating’s leadership the place is buzzing with activity.

People often ask what makes a successful entrepreneur and my answer is always the same.

I do not believe it necessary to be a university graduate, but it is essential that you are able to gain knowledge in some way. Whether that is by reading newspapers, magazines or books as I did, or by studying at one of the fabulous schools, colleges or universities throughout the UK.

We live in a time and country where to quote myself “anything is possible and most things are probable, with focus and application to the task in hand”.

A land where paupers can rise to meet and mingle with royalty. Where children from poor backgrounds can grow to achieve and lead. Where families can feel safe as they prosper through their own efforts, under the protection of a society founded on fairness & free speech.

Developing a fair society which reflects the aspirations of its citizens and allows anyone, regardless of colour, religion, background or educational qualifications, to progress freely in a way that suits them must surely be the aim of us all.

Original article for the Urban Times January 2014.

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