A British man held captive as a hostage in Lebanon for almost five years has recounted how Queen Elizabeth invited him to stay after his release, a dramatic change from being chained to a wall to dining with royalty.
Then an envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Terry Waite was in Beirut in January 1987, during Lebanon’s civil war, attempting to negotiate the release of British hostages held by the Islamic Jihad group, when he was taken hostage himself.
He was held in strict solitary confinement in harrowing conditions for much of his captivity, which ended in November 1991.
Waite, now 83, recounted that after he was flown back to Britain, he received an unexpected invitation from the Queen for himself, his wife and their four children to escape from intense media interest and stay on her Scottish estate at Balmoral.
The family were flown up to a Royal Air Force base in Scotland before transferring to a helicopter that landed on the lawn in front of Balmoral Castle, Waite told Times Radio during an interview reflecting on the Queen’s death.
“You can imagine the transition from spending five years sleeping on the floor or chained to the wall, suddenly there you are in Balmoral,” he said.
The family stayed for two weeks in a cottage in the grounds that had previously been used by Princess Diana, then the wife of the Queen’s eldest son Prince Charles.
Waite said the fridge had been stocked and a Land Rover made available for the family’s use during their two-week stay. At the weekend, they were invited to dine at the castle with the Queen, her husband Prince Philip and other royals.
“William and Harry as young boys were there,” he said, referring to Charles and Diana’s sons. “Diana was there. And I had quite a lot of conversation actually with Prince Philip.”
Waite said it took him about a year to feel as though he had rebuilt a normal life, but that stay at Balmoral made a significant difference.
“I was enormously grateful for the care and compassion of the Queen,” he said.
“One sees her as a head of state, in formal roles, but to somehow manage to bring to her role that deep understanding and care for people … She had a tremendous knowledge of different situations. You could talk to her about any situation, she had some understanding of it.”