Since Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday, Bud Grant said Saturday that 15 to 20 friends had reached out to ask about the time he met her.
Yes, the legendary former Vikings coach once shook hands with the Queen of the United Kingdom.
It was 1959, and Queen was on a tour of Canada. One of her stops was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Grant was then head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Grant, then 32, was invited to a grand hotel for the Queen’s visit.
“She was touring, and the Queen in Canada, they worship her,’’ Grant told the Pioneer Press. “It was a huge, huge event for Winnipeg to have the Queen of England. So they had a dinner, and I was in attendance and I sat close to her and I met her and talked to her briefly. But we didn’t talk about anything else, just hello and goodbye.’’
The Winnipeg Free Press published a photo in the paper after the event of Grant shaking hands with the Queen, who had reigned since 1952 and died at age 96. That photo has circulated on the Internet since the Queen died, leading some of Grant’s many friends to reach out.
— Mace (@RoyaleVision) July 29, 2017
“They called, sent me copies,’’ Grant said. “Some said, ‘I didn’t know (about the meeting with the Queen).’ Some said, ‘Nice to hear.’ Those kind of things.”
Grant, who coached the Blue Bombers from 1957-66 and won four Grey Cups, said the Queen’s visit was front-page news in Winnipeg for months leading up to her visit. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, countries that were once part of the British Empire.
“It was an honor,’’ Grant said of meeting the Queen. “I appreciated it. I don’t want to downplay it, but it meant more to the Canadians than it did to me. In Canada, she was their queen. They had a reception and a dinner for her, and it was huge. Women were talking for months about what they were going to wear to it.”
Grant, who coached the Vikings from 1967-83 and in 1985 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, has met a number of world leaders. U.S. presidents he has met include Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“In Canada, the Queen is bigger than our president,’’ Grant said. “I didn’t get to spend much time hobnobbing with her but I did shake her hand.”