Clare Balding breached royal protocol during Queen visit: ‘That was really odd’

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The 50-year-old returns to screens today as she joins the likes of comic Jack Whitehall and legendary musician Suggs on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. She is one of the nation’s most recognisable TV stars, and made a name for herself while delivering a host of sports coverage for the BBC. Across her career she has presented live from some of the world’s most iconic sporting celebrations, including six Olympic Games, four Paralympic Games, the Winter Olympics, Rugby League Challenge Cup and Crufts.

But she first became a household name thanks to her brilliant coverage of horse racing, and became the broadcaster’s lead presenter after Julian Wilson retired in 1997.

As a former amateur Flat jockey and champion lady rider, Clare was able to offer an intelligent insight into racing, as well as a warm and calm manner behind the mic.

And her love of horses saw Clare meet a host of famous people, including a surprise encounter with the Queen in her younger years.

While Clare has interviewed and met various members of the Firm throughout the decades, it was when she was readying herself for breakfast one morning she made a royal faux pas.

Speaking on the Jonathan Ross Show four years ago, Clare said: “My dad trained for the Queen so growing up, she would come and see the horse… about once a year and sometimes he’d forget to tell us that the Queen was coming so you’d have that situation where you came back to the house, the Queen was there for breakfast, that was really odd.

“I thought it was a bit odd because we weren’t having breakfast the way we usually had it, it was all a bit smarter.

“I was meant to curtsy but I forgot because I ran in and thought, ‘Cooked breakfast, fantastic, sausages!’”

While Clare’s links to the racing community have been well documented, her family is also incredibly close to the monarchy and aristocracy.

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Her maternal grandfather, Peter Hastings-Bass, and her maternal uncle, the 17th Earl of Huntingdon, were also trainers of the Queen’s horses.

Priscilla Hastings, Clare’s maternal grandmother, is also descended from the Earls of Derby.

But despite these close ties to the Firm, Clare was once put in her place by the Queen’s husband Prince Philip, who passed away last month.

Recalling the encounter, and paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, the TV star noted that she was parachuted in to do a last minute interview with the royal in 2010.

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At the time, Huw Edwards – who normally carries out royal coverage – had to be near 10 Downing Street, as the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats were thrashing out a deal after a hung Parliament.

So Clare stepped up and began chatting to the Duke of Edinburgh about Trooping the Colour and the Queen’s birthday parade.

She told ITV’s Lorraine in April: “He was absolutely charming and very straight-forward and very professional, until I said something.

“I was talking about the Grenadier Guards, and I was talking about the way they are and the values they hold and I said ‘the guardsmen or women’ the same way I say ‘firemen or women’, I always do that, I say ‘sportsmen or women’.

“And he looked at me and said, ‘There are no women in the Grenadier Guards’, which is not correct now but was correct then.

“And I just thought, ‘Yep, you’ve been put back in your box, know your place Clare’.”

In 2010, the Grenadier Guards were all male, but by December, 2020, it welcomed 15 new Guardsmen, including the first ever female Grenadier Guard since it was founded in 1656.

Sunday Brunch airs at 9.30am on Channel 4 today.

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