Beer? No Thanks, I Drink at the Crown; BRISKLY AND DRY IS THE ORDER ON QUEEN'S FIRST PUB VISIT IN 40 YEARS

Article excerpt

Byline: BILL MOULAND

IT COULD have been construed as bad manners although the good folk of Devon would have blushed as red as their soil to have been accused of it.

It may just have been a misunderstanding of Royal protocol or, quite simply, that the Queen just wasn't thirsty.

Whichever way, she ended her first official visit to a pub in nearly 40 years yesterday without even having a drink, which seemed like the equivalent of summoning the guard and then not changing it.

'I did not offer, and she did not ask.

If she had had the time it would have been nice to serve her,' said Caroline Cheffers-Heard, 45, whose pub, The Bridge Inn at Topsham, near Exeter, had been chosen as the royal venue both for its 900-year-old history and its proximity to the Queen's next port of call at the Royal Marines base in Lympstone.

'We could not offer her a drink - protocol means that it was up to her to ask,' said her father Norman. 'I would have suggested some wine or a gin.' It was something of a shame because Caroline, whose great grandfather William John Gibbings was the first generation of the family to take the pub in 1897, had been fretting all night over what might be her guest's favourite tipple.

Port and lemon, someone had suggested, or Campari and soda.

The trouble was that, unlike the the case of the Queen Mother who has been famously photographed pulling pints, there was not much history to go on.

Apart from an emergency seven-hour stay at a Cotswolds pub during heavy snow in 1981, the Queen's last officially recorded visit to a hostelry was in April 1959 when she called at the Pied Piper in Stevenage during a visit to the then new town.

So she could be excused for looking uncertain as she stepped from her Rolls Royce outside the pink-painted walls of The Bridge.

'Are you coming in?' she asked lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey, as Mrs Cheffers-Heard hovered nervously by the door.

If Her Majesty really has not been into a pub for so long, she may be thinking that little has changed over the years. …