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Aberfan: Queen's 'biggest regret'.

Byline: Rebecca Lees

THE Queen says her biggest regret during her reign is failing to visit Aberfan immediately after the coal slide which killed 146 people in 1966, it has been reported.

In hindsight, the Queen apparently believes she acted wrongly by despatching husband Prince Phillip and Lord Snowdon to the mining village when the news broke - waiting a week to pay her respects.

The revelation is made by royal watcher Gyles Brandreth following a conversation with the late Lord Charteris, the Queen's former private secretary.

In a diary Brandreth has compiled to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee year, he recalls a conversation he had with Lord Charteris 10 years ago, asking him if the Queen felt she had ever put a foot wrong - he immediately replied: "Aberfan."

A generation of schoolchildren was wiped out by the disaster, which occurred when a slag heap above Pantglas Senior School collapsed, engulfing the building.

Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the claims, saying the comments were a matter for Lord Charteris. But support for the Queen remains strong in Aberfan.

Councillor and disaster survivor Jeff Edwards, who was eight at the time, said: "If the Queen does regret not coming here straight away, I think that is misplaced.

"When she did arrive she was visibly upset and the people of Aberfan appreciated her being here.

"She came when she could and nobody would condemn her for not coming earlier, especially as everything was such a mess."

Coun Edwards, who was one of four survivors from a class of 34, added the Queen has shown a continuing interest in Aberfan since 1966 and recently made a donation to a project helping local school leavers without qualifications.

"She has come here three times altogether, once directly afterwards, once in the early 1970s and then two years ago to meet survivors, " he said.

"That trip was officially to open a factory in Troedyrhiw but she requested to visit Aberfan as well and that overshadowed the official visit.

"The people here admire her and I think they have a strong affinity with her." The Queen's representative in Wales, Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan, Captain Norman Lloyd-Edwards, declined to speculate on the matter.

"It is a matter of personal opinion and not something I feel in a position to comment on, " he said.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you think the Queen got it wrong when she sent her husband the Duke of Edinburgh to Aberfan immediately after the disaster?

Was she simply na?ve or was she showing the first signs of behaviour that critics say has dogged her reign - being arrogant and out of touch?

The Queen is due to visit Wales this year as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations - can she and should she make it up to the community then?

Tell us what you think by writing to the Echo or emailing us at echo. newsdesk@wme. co.uk

CAPTION(S):

UNITED IN GRIEF Aberfan's devastated residents unite to clear away the rubble which engulfed the school, and inset, the Queen visits the aftermath.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 21, 2002
Words:512
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