'She didn't stop smiling' - Thames Hospice remembers the Queen's surprise visit to Berkshire

The 96-year-old monarch made one of her last public appearances in July 2022 to formally open the new home of the Thames Hospice. Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

Staff at a hospice in Berkshire have described the Queen's warm sense of humour when she made a surprise visit, just two months ago, to officially open a new £22 million building.

Her Majesty travelled the short distance from her Windsor Castle home to Maidenhead to tour the Thames Hospice.

In July, she met with staff, volunteers and a patient, in what was to become one of her last public appearances.

The Queen saw the funny side when a mobile phone rang just as she was introduced to Graham White and his wife Pat, a patient at the centre who has stage four cancer.

The Queen quipped: "Typical, a phone goes off immediately", and Mr White sheepishly said it was his son ringing.

The Queen chatted to Thames Hospice cancer patient Pat White, whose husband’s phone rang as they were being introduced. Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

Jonathan Jones, Chair of Trustees at Thames Hospice said: "It was a wonderful moment and I’ll never forget the Queen was completely unphased by it and carried on chatting to Pat.

"I was told I looked a little horrified, obviously imagining it was one of our staff who’d left their phone on.

"I don’t think she stopped smiling the whole visit while she was unveiling the plaque and our visitors book. That’s something I’ll treasure forever.

"When she arrived, it was clear she already knew quite a lot about our amazing new building and she asked us about how long it had taken to build and when we managed to move in during the pandemic."

Julia Harley, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Thames Hospice said: "The feeling of hope that she exuded was incredible and it gave all of the patients and staff an amazing lift.

"Even now, we’re still buzzing from it and incredibly proud and privileged she came to visit us, it was amazing."

The former Windsor site of Thames Hospice was opened by the Queen in 1987.

Past visitors have included Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

For more than 30 years the hospice has been providing palliative and end-of-life care and support to people across east Berkshire and south Buckinghamshire.

Its services are free for those who need care, and more than 50% of the £13 million annual running costs come from charitable support.