“I felt like I was a celebrity for a day”
This Black History Month, OSJCT Nurse Eleanor recalls representing the Caribbean island of St Lucia at the King’s Coronation.
Back in May, Eleanor Alexis swapped her nurse’s uniform for a bright pink fascinator and smart dress suit as she joined foreign royalty, heads of state, church representatives and celebrities at the Coronation ceremony of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey in London.
Born on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, a member of the British Commonwealth, Eleanor moved to the UK seven years ago after hearing all the stories of her parents over the years, as they had emigrated as part of the Windrush Generation and then returned. Eleanor studied nursing in St Lucia and has been a registered nurse for over 25 years. She spent much of that time working in hospitals, until she moved to the UK to progress her career in social care, joining Monkscroft Care Centre in Cheltenham.
Eleanor maintains close ties with her home country and, along with her brother Solomon, she was put forward by the British High Commission and Honourable Philip J Pierre – St Lucia’s Prime Minister – to represent her home country at the Coronation ceremony. Eleanor and her brother were also officially invited to the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle.
Eleanor said: “When I told colleagues and residents at Monkscroft that I had been invited to the King’s Coronation, no one believed me! But when I explained that I would be representing my home country, they started to believe me. I ordered a fascinator especially for the occasion, and when I showed residents what I was going to wear on the day, they said they would look out for me on TV.”
On the day of the Coronation, Eleanor left her home at 4am and travelled to London by coach. She continued: “We arrived in London at 6.45am and got changed at a hotel. We got as close to Westminster Abbey as possible by taxi, but there was a huge amount of security enroute and so we had to walk, and walk, and walk, to get to the venue. On arrival at the Abbey, we had to go through more security and an accreditation area. It was a bit like going through an airport, but you felt confident everything was under control and everything flowed smoothly. Inside the Abbey, there were all these cameras, and I imagined this must be how celebrities feel, walking by all the cameras and paparazzi.”
Seating in the Abbey was on a first come, first served basis, and Eleanor sat next to none other than Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England who played a key role in the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic.
“When Chris found out I was a nurse for The Orders of St John Care Trust,” said Eleanor, “he thanked me and all the carers and nurses for all that we had done during the pandemic.” She added: “I was among people who were important, because of the work they do or the country they represent. It was a particularly special moment for me, when I watched dignitaries filing past carrying different flags, and I identified St Lucia’s. I spoke with my mum on the way home, and she cried, she was so proud.”
Eleanor also met Ant and Dec and got close to Lionel Ritchie. She said: “The music was good and the atmosphere was amazing. I felt like I was a celebrity for a day.”
When Eleanor returned to Monkscroft, donning her nurse’s uniform once again, she shared photos from the ceremony and concert with colleagues and residents. Eleanor said: “A colleague spotted me on the news, and residents and families showed a renewed appreciation for me and the work that I do. I feel very honoured to have been part of such a historic moment, I will never forget it.”