25 JANUARY 2008

It was not the most luxurious or unusual gift the Queen has ever received. But when the monarch was presented with two ripe bananas on an official engagement, she was clearly touched by the thought behind the gesture.

The unusual choice of gift came from Betty Hyde, a retired healthcare scientist, who spent 16 years working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, which the monarch was touring.

In February 1943 Betty, then four, was in a South London clinic recovering from a shrapnel wound when she got a wonderful surprise. The late Queen Mother arrived on one of her famous morale-boosting visits, bearing what was in those days a rare treat.

"The Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, had given their mother bananas of their own to donate to children at the hospital," said the 69-year-old pensioner, who recalled that up until then she'd never seen the fruit.

"I was allowed to take a carnation and then I was given the bananas — one for myself and one for my (three-year-old) sister," she added.

On Thursday, 65 years on, Betty was able to repay the kindness by presenting the royal matriarch's daughter with a banana gift of her own. "I handed them to her and said, 'I would like to return the compliment'. She smiled and said, 'Thank you. That's very nice'."

Photo: ©
The sovereign got a trip down memory lane during a hospital visit when a retired scientist presented her with the fruit, reminding her that as a teenager she'd kindly donated bananas to children wounded in wartime bombingPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Her mother, the late Queen Mum, handed the gift to Betty, then four, during a tour of Lewisham clinic in South LondonPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Until then the little girl had never set eyes on a bananaPhoto: © AFP