Paul McCartney reflects on Queen Elizabeth II encounters: "Memories came flooding back"

Paul McCartney calls Queen Elizabeth "down to Earth"

Sir Paul McCartney is reflecting on his numerous interactions with Queen Elizabeth II, who knighted him in Buckingham Palace back in 1997 when he was 54 years old. Two decades later, he was made a Companion of Honour.

The 80-year-old singer-songwriter said his "memories came flooding back" on Friday — a day after the queen died at 96. In a more than 850-word statement posted on his website, McCartney said he feels "privileged to have been alive during the whole of Queen Elizabeth II's reign."

McCartney considers himself a lifelong fan and friend of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, having met her at least nine times. His public ties to the monarch date back to when he was just 10 years old after he won a school essay contest ahead of the monarch's coronation in June 1953. 

"And lo and behold, I actually won it. I won my division," McCartney recalled in an interview last year for "The Queen Carries On: A Gayle King Special" on CBS. "And I'm very nervous because they called out my name … And I, like, stumbled up with legs of jelly, and it was the first time I'd ever kind of really been on a stage."

The prize-winning essay "had the lyrics of a love song, as Paul wrote about 'our lovely young Queen,'" CBS Mornings co-anchor Gayle King previously described.

In fact, McCartney said Queen Elizabeth II's televised coronation influenced his family to get a TV in order to tune in alongside millions of other Britons.

"Till then, we hadn't had a television," McCartney told King. "And me and my younger brother were always begging our parents, 'Can we get a TV?' ... Well then suddenly for the coronation, everyone got one."

McCartney's top moments with Queen Elizabeth II

McCartney said Queen Elizabeth II impressed him "with her great sense of humour combined with great dignity" each time he had the honor of meeting her. The first time was alongside his Beatles bandmates in October 1965 when they received their MBE medals.

He continued to describe his various other encounters with Queen Elizabeth II, including:

  • October 1965: The Beatles receive their MBEs at Buckingham Palace
  • December 1982: McCartney attends "An Evening for Conservation" at the Royal Albert Hall
  • June 1996: McCartney attends the opening of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
  • March 1997: McCartney receives his Knighthood at Buckingham Palace
  • June 2002: McCartney performs during the Party at the Palace concert
  • July 2002: McCartney receives a painting exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery
  • May 2012: McCartney attends the Celebration of the Arts event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London
  • June 2012: McCartney performs at the Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace
  • May 2018: McCartney receives the Companion of Honour at Buckingham Palace

McCartney said his Knighthood in 1997 was one of the proudest moments of his life.

"It was one of the best days ever. I felt very honoured to be offered a Knighthood and of course it would have been rude to turn it down! I remember it was in the springtime and the skies were blue. It was a wonderful day and I remember thinking I'd come a long way from a little terrace house in Liverpool!" he wrote in his online post.

Sir Paul Mccartney receives his Knighthood at Buckingham Palace in 1997. Avalon / Getty Images

McCartney's "cheeky" last words to Queen Elizabeth II

McCartney also shared his final "cheeky" exchange with the queen during his 2018 Companion of Honour award ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

"Because of my respect and love for the Queen and her fabulous sense of humour when I was given the Companion of Honour medal I shook her hand, leaned in and said, 'We have got to stop meeting like this,' to which she giggled slightly and got on with the ceremony. I did wonder if I was a bit too cheeky after saying this, after all this was The Queen, but I have a feeling she didn't mind," he quipped.

After all, McCartney has described the queen as "very down to earth."

"I think the thing about the queen is that she's – she's royal, so you look up to her 'cause she's royal. But she's very down to Earth," McCartney told King in 2021.

Following her death Thursday, McCartney shared a black and white photograph of a young Queen Elizabeth II. He wrote, "God bless Queen Elizabeth II. May she rest in peace. Long live the King," referring to her 73-year-old son King Charles III, who ascended to the throne.

King Charles III delivered his first televised remarks as king on Friday, praising his mother's dedicated service, which he vowed to carry on.

"As the queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation. And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom or in the realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love," he said.

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