Dear Parents and carers,

It has been a wonderful first week of the new academic year, but of course, the joy that came with the return of the boys on Monday has been turned on its head with the sad news of Her Majesty’s passing yesterday. We send our fondest wishes to King Charles and his family at this difficult time. Today, we have had the flag at half-mast and I have spoken to the boys in the Middle and Upper School in the Chapel during an extended Night Prayer. We will all feel a deep sadness, but soon I hope we will feel able to celebrate a long life and an extraordinary record of service to the people of this country and the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty the Queen visiting St John's Beaumont School Pre-Prep in 2009Several staff have shared their memories of the Queen coming to the school in 2009 to open our Sports Centre. I am sure all of us who have been following the coverage will recognise her dedication to this country – from the speech aged 21 when she committed herself to a life of service, right up to her last official duties on Tuesday, still honouring that oath.

I was lucky enough to meet the Queen briefly four years ago at Westminster, but the memory I wish to share comes from an episode of Desert Islands Discs on Radio 4 in 2016 with the guest David Nott, who served as a doctor during the horrors of the war in Syria and was badly traumatised by the experience. Listen to the whole programme if you can – his is an extraordinary story – or skip ahead to 22:20 for the anecdote he shares about his meeting with the Queen and the way in which she supported him when he felt overwhelmed. The link is here.

She was an extraordinary person and we will miss her. The school will, of course, observe the days of national mourning, which may mean closure on the day of her state funeral. I will write again once decisions have been made.

To return to my original theme of our first week back, I want to reiterate what a pleasure it has been to meet your sons and to see so many of you at our Parent Information evenings. I have recorded a version of my talk which is available to parents of boarders and those of you who were unable to attend on Wednesday here.

I wish you all a restful weekend, during which I am sure we will all have time to reflect on Her Majesty and what she means to us.

Dr Deneal Smith

SJB Together – 9th September 2022