Bizarre tale of the Queen Jack the bonsai tree and a firstclass

first_imgChina's leading English language newspaper described the Duke’s remarks as 'foot in mouth disease' I sincerely hope that the tree is given an appropriate welcome upon arrival in the UKPeking diplomat Frank Savage’s memo The Queen viewing some of the Terracotta Army soldier statues during the state visit to ChinaCredit:Hulton Archive/Getty He was “somewhat horrified” to learn that for the remaining eight hours the tree was to be stored in a pen with two Alsatians as guard dogs, noting “this plan was dropped with some alacrity when I pointed out the obvious.”The tree was then flown home on the same flight as the Queen. In his memo, Mr Savage signed off: “I sincerely hope that the tree is given an appropriate welcome upon arrival in the UK (say, an escort from the Light Brigade), and that it will receive visitors (preferably Cantonese speakers) while it is in quarantine for 12 weeks at The Savoy.”The memo was part of a tranche of documents related to the state visit, released by the Foreign Office under the Freedom of Information Act. The Queen viewing some of the Terracotta Army soldier statues during the state visit to China When the Queen was presented with ceremonial gifts during a visit to China in 1986, her officials were tasked with arranging their safe transit to Britain.In the case of a 60-year-old bonsai tree, that was easier said than done.Newly released documents have disclosed the comical lengths to which our man in Peking went in order to get the tree from China to Windsor in one piece – including first class travel (for the tree, but not the people accompanying it), a police motorcade, a personal security guard, and a welcome delegation of executives from British Airways.The tree – later nicknamed ‘Jack’ – was a gift from the Governor of Guangdong and the plan was to put it on the Queen’s Flight to Hong Kong for the next leg of the trip.center_img For Frank Savage, a diplomat in Peking, that was where the problems began. In its ornate bamboo cage, the tree was too big to fit through the cabin door. The hold had no temperature control.”I was not prepared to risk the health of our venerable tree in temperatures of -50C,” Mr Savage wrote.Instead, it was arranged for the tree to travel in the first class freight van of the mid-morning train to Hong Kong, while Mr Savage and his wife had to make do with second class.He noted wryly that the tree “became something of a local celebrity for the short while that it was with us”.At Kowloon Station, they were met by a superintendent of police and six officers, who whisked them to the airport in a three-car motorcade.At the airport “the tree was greeted by two high official from BA plus around twenty lesser mortals,” Mr Savage recalled.”I was informed that BA would put a guard on the tree 16 hours a day in order to attend to its every need (I recommended a Cantonese as opposed to a Mandarin speaker so that the tree would not be unduly lonely).” Also published is the reply to Mr Savage from Philip Rouse, an official in the Far Eastern Department, who had been tasked with meeting the tree at Heathrow.Mr Rouse had under-estimated the height of the tree, and turned up in his small hatchback hoping to drive it to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) quarantine station in Harpenden.Instead he “commandeered a British Airways truck and set off into the night. Two hours later, after seeking directions at the Cricketers public house in St Alban’s, I arrived at Harpenden”.Mr Rouse had instructed the director of the agricultural station to open his greenhouse despite the late hour in order to receive the famous tree, which the British had nicknamed ‘Jack’.He said: “The MAFF man, a Bonsai buff, went down on his knees in ecstasy and delight. His wife, obviously wishing to be part of this royal occasion, handed round sandwiches and cocoa. I left them at midnight peering through the bamboo cage presumably waiting for Jack to do or say something.”After being released from quarantine, ‘Jack’ took up residence in the plant centre at Windsor Great Park, according to the documents.Since learning of the story of the Queen’s bonsai, a park spokeswoman said staff are seeking to discover what happened to it. The Queen and Prince Philip visiting the Great Wall of China on their 1986 state visitCredit:Tim Graham/Getty Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img

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