She was the heart of our nation

by | Sep 10, 2022

Sir Mike Aaronson was Director General (chief executive) of Save the Children UK, from 1995-2005 and the international Overseas Director from 1988-1995. He first joined Save the Children in 1969, spending two years as a relief worker in Nigeria after reading philosophy and psychology at St John’s College, Oxford.

In January 2000 he was made a CBE and in June 2006 was made a Knight Bachelor for services to children.

Like everyone else, I have been deeply saddened by the passing of our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The nation has lost someone who was much more than just a public figure; she embodied a sense of duty and service that was a model and an inspiration for us all, and her death leaves a huge hole in our lives.

Her Majesty was also for many years a committed Patron of Save the Children, and a great supporter of our work. Her extensive travels across the Commonwealth and beyond from a young age would have given her a strong insight into the extent of the poverty and deprivation that affected millions of children around the world, and not forgetting in the UK.

I suspect she would have been delighted and proud when in 1970 her daughter, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, agreed to take on an active role as our President, and Her Majesty continued to attend a number of our fundraising events and to support us in various ways.

Indeed, the first time I had the honour of meeting her, shortly after I joined the organisation as Overseas Director in 1988, was at a carol concert given at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of Save the Children, when all the executive directors were presented to her in the Royal Box after the concert (I was actually singing in the choir and had to move fast to get up there in time after the final number!).

Later, in 1994, I recall her and Prince Philip joining us for our 75th anniversary celebrations at a Reception at St James’ Palace. We were also regularly granted the privilege of hosting fundraising events and committee meetings, chaired by The Princess Royal, in Buckingham Palace.
Naturally, with her daughter as our hard-working President, the Queen acted mainly as a figurehead, but we were very conscious of the honour she did us by being our Patron.

Royal patronage is most obviously a mark of approval for the mission of a charity, but it also helps to seal the emotional bond between the public and the cause the charity is fighting for, in our case to make the world a better place for children.

The outpouring of grief at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II shows just how strong that bond can be. Our Queen was close to our nation’s heart, and she was the heart of our nation.

We are deeply grateful for everything she did to support us.