AFTER practising her curtsey for days, Grace Ford Clough’s dream came true when she met the Queen.
The four-year-old presented Her Majesty with a bouquet of roses as she officially opened Oxford’s newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum.
The Beaumont Street museum was packed with 500 local dignitaries, staff, designers, volunteers and benefactors for the royal visit — including Lord Heseltine and Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia.
Hundreds of well-wishers and schoolchildren huddled in the morning fog to greet the monarch, many waving flags and cheering.
Grace, of Oatlands Road, West Oxford, was picked to perform the special duty because she was the youngest pupil at West Oxford Primary School.
Dressed in a new purple dress and black shiny shoes, she said: “My birthday was in August so I’m four-and-a-half.
“She was nice. I gave the flowers to the Queen and I did a curtsey and she said ‘thank you, the flowers are very pretty’.
“It was exciting, like a dream come true.”
Her mother, Katherine Ford, said: “I think it will probably be one of her earliest memories and what a special memory it will be.
“She has been very excited about it all week, practising her curtsey and teaching her little brother Julius.”
The Queen toured new galleries before visiting the conservation studio — inspecting a 19th century silk coat from Central Asia — and education centre, where children from West Kidlington Primary School were learning about ancient Greek coins and pottery.
Finally, she unveiled a plaque, following a welcome speech by Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University.
The £61m renovation features 39 new galleries, including four temporary exhibition galleries and Oxford’s first rooftop restaurant.
Lord Patten said: “It is quite literally the most important day in the museum’s history since it was founded in 1683.”
Pupil Taylor Southam, nine, of Morton Avenue, Kidlington, was in the education centre when the Queen began listening in on a lesson.
He said: “She tapped me on the shoulder and I shook her hand.
It was nerve-wracking because I had never seen the Queen before. It was just amazing.
“It was a once -in-a-lifetime experience. I think my mum is going to be quite astonished when I tell her.”
His classmate Jeremy Mbabaria, also nine, presented the Queen with some flowers as she left the education centre.
The nine-year-old, from Cherry Close, Kidlington, said: “She said ‘thank you, these are beautiful’.
“I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.”
Museum director Dr Christopher Brown described the occasion as a “historical moment” for the city.
He said: “There is no more eminent person than the Queen...it’s a great seal of approval.”