The former chief chef aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia has described the Queen as “someone special”, saying he will shed a tear when she is laid to rest.
Jeff Hughes was chief chef on board the royal yacht for 16 years as he served in the Royal Navy.
The 78-year-old, from Wrexham, returned to the ship at its current mooring in Edinburgh on Monday, the day of the Queen’s funeral.
Britannia, which is now a visitor attraction, was closed to the public as the UK observed a day of mourning.
The Union flag on the ship was flown at half mast and a lone piper played a lament in the morning.
Mr Hughes spoke to reporters shortly before the Queen’s funeral began, recalling his time on board the Queen’s yacht.
He said: “To work in close proximity to the royal family, they made you feel at home, it was their home as well.
“To see them being so relaxed helped us to be relaxed when you came in contact with them.”
Mr Hughes said the ship’s company would sometimes entertain the royals by putting on their own performances on the decks.
He remembers the Queen and Prince Philip “absolutely laughing their heads off at the stupid antics we got up to”.
He continued: “It’s hard to explain, but the Queen is someone special.
“We will never have a monarch like the Queen, although King Charles will do a good job.
“Nobody will do the job like Her Majesty the Queen did. She was a one-off, you will never get that person again.”
The former sailor expected the funeral to be a poignant moment, saying: “To be honest with you, I think I will have a tear and I will be choking back when the Queen is finally laid to rest.”
Mr Hughes received a cherished gift as he finished his last voyage with the yacht, as the royals visited the US and Canada.
He said: “I had a 10 minutes private audience with the royal couple. And that was very special because they asked me all about my time on the yacht, about my family and what I intended to do after I left the yacht.
“And then just as I was leaving Her Majesty the Queen said, ‘we’d like to give you this little gift on behalf of myself and Prince Philip’.
“And they gave me a pair of cufflinks.”
He added: “I was lost for words. I didn’t know what to say.
“I just said, ‘thank you sir, thank you ma’am'”.
Mr Hughes said the Queen recognised him when he later received the Royal Victorian medal, saying “nice to see you again, chef”.
He added: “Those are memories I will cherish forever.”
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