Seymour woman shares fascination with royal family

Since she was a little girl, Mary Elisabeth Trimpe Keller has been fascinated by the British royal family.

Little did she know that one day, she would actually meet Queen Elizabeth II.

Keller, 75, said the English connection to her family began when her father, Omer Trimpe, was serving in World War II from 1942 to 1945.

“He spent Christmas 1943 with some people in northern England in a home where they invited U.S. soldiers,” Keller said. “He visited them on several different occasions and our two families have communicated until recent years.”

Keller said her mother was a great letter writer and so was the lady in England, who she and her husband invited the soldiers in, so the two women started a correspondence about once a month and wrote letters.

Keller believes the English couple felt indebted to U.S. servicemen as the lady sent gifts to the Trimpe family quite often.

“My mother sent her things they could not get after the war, and they sent us things including an item which marked the coronation,” she said. “About a year later when I was 12 years old, she sent something that I looked at and marveled at for years and it was a cookie tin with cookies, which they call biscuits, and the lid featured the queen and Prince Philip.”

Shortly after that, one of the first books the English couple sent them was a “Sunday Graphic” Royal Tour picture album, which to this day is still a treasured book of Keller’s.

“The royal picture album book was marvelous, and I wrote my maiden name in the front as a little girl, and the album starts out the night they left Europe,” she said. “It goes on through the islands of Bermuda, and I was fascinated by Tonga because their queen, Queen Salote, attended the coronation and captivated the Britons.

Keller has a collection of books, magazines, memorabilia and about 1,000 clippings pertaining to the royal family.

“I remember oohing and aahing over Buckingham Palace and other places and just ate it all up because to me, it was like a fairy tale,” she said. “It was larger than life, and fairy tales do come true to see these real people, a royal family.”

Before long, Keller knew not only all about the queen, Philip and their children, but she knew who her cousins were and knew their children’s names.

“I knew the aunts and uncles and all of the titles they had, and I could do pretty good with those up until recent years, but it has been a lifelong fascination for me,” she said.

“I was 6 years old at the time of the queen’s coronation June 2, 1953, and I grew up with those letters coming from this family in northern England,” Keller said. “I clearly remember watching the coronation of the queen on TV.

Keller said her parents didn’t have a TV, so a relative had asked several people over to watch the coronation at their house.

“We were all looking up at a little black and white TV, but I still remember it today because it was huge progress,” she said. “Back then, nothing was shown live from Europe in the United States as there was no satellite.”

Mary Elisabeth’s daughter, Anne Keller, said she believes it was the first time in history something filmed in Europe was flown to North America to be televised on the same day the event happened.

“It was a complicated process to get that to us, and the pictures themselves were not on videotape, which was years away, but on film reels,” Anne said. “The film would record the British television coverage, then be flown across the ocean to Canada and then New York to be played back on American television.”

Anne, who majored in English writing at DePauw University, said the TV coverage was a big advance in communication.

A few months after Elizabeth’s coronation, she and Philip went on the Commonwealth tour she had begun before the death of her father. They visited Bermuda, Jamaica, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Cocos Islands, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Uganda, Malta, Gibraltar and Aden, according to

Keller said she knew all of Queen Elizabeth’s beautiful dresses and where they went and the fact she mostly traveled by air or her royal yacht, the Britannia, which she had until recent years.

“After they left on their extensive six-month trip in November 1953, they came back in May 1954 and were reunited with their two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne,” she said,

The couple in England would send books that were published in England about the royal family, and Keller almost wore one of them out, she said.

“It was about the old Duchess of Kent, who I always thought was beautiful, and the family sent books upon books to us, and I just poured over them,” Keller said. “I have a book about Princess Margaret, who was married but not to the person she wanted to be, and I can remember riding in the truck with my dad to Franklin and having this book in my lap, and I was reading portions of it to him.”

In 1955, she sent a birthday card to the queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, and a lady-in-waiting sent a thank-you note, which Keller still has. The note reads, “I write at The Queen’s command to thank you for the charming card and message of good wishes which you so kindly sent to Princess Anne for Her Royal Highnesses’ fifth birthday.”

She was so swept off of her feet with the royal family that as a child, she made her own scrapbook, which she got at a Murphy’s five-and-10 store for 39 cents.

“I started out collecting things from the newspaper, and we always took The Indianapolis Star and I started collecting things and came up with many scrapbooks,” she said. “I have some pictures in my scrapbook that were taken when the queen and Prince Philip were in Canada and Chicago for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in June and July 1959.”

Keller went on one of her first vacations with her aunt to Mackinac Island around that same time, and one night coincidentally, they saw the Britannia royal yacht go by carrying the queen and Philip on their way to Chicago. The ship was all lit up in the Straits, and everyone came out on the porch and watched it as they went by, she said.

“The couple in England who were my father’s friends and we had been corresponding with, passed away and their daughter met and married a man from the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands,” she said. “The Jersey dairy cows come from the island of Jersey to this day, and the Guernsey milk cows originated from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.”

The daughter moved to Jersey with her husband, and they visited Mary Elisabeth and Anne several times, beginning in the 1970s. The daughter then began sending correspondence and items to the Kellers until she died because Anne was a fan of the royal family, too.

“Fast forward to 1978 when I decided to go to Jersey to visit our family friends there but can’t remember if I specifically went in June because I knew the queen and Prince Philip were going to be there or if it was just happenstance,” Keller said. “It was the 25th anniversary of her coronation and they were going to visit the island of Jersey for one day to attend an agricultural exhibition of Jersey cows and potatoes.”

Keller’s friends got tickets for an event taking place June 27 in Jersey where they were showing Jersey cattle and the royal potatoes for which Jersey is famous and the queen was going to be there.

“My friends and I each took a rose from their garden to take to the fair where the hostess cut the thorns off,” Keller said. “She said if by chance the queen comes by, you are to extend your flower and say ‘Good afternoon’ or some type of greeting.”

The queen did walk by, and Keller extended the rose and greeted the queen, and by her accent, the queen could tell she wasn’t British.

“She stopped and asked me where I was from, and I remember saying, ‘Indiana, which is in the middle of the United States,’ and she said something like, ‘I see’ or ‘How interesting’ and walked on,” she said. “I still have my green suit I was wearing that day, and I recall her complexion was white, she was fairly short and was wearing very vivid green.”

Keller has a book with pictures that tells all about the queen’s day in Jersey and has photos she took herself that day.

“When Anne was 10 years old in 1984, we decided to go on a trip to England and the queen was going to be in Poole on the south coast of England on June 27,” she said. “We were there and saw the queen and Prince Philip go by in a car, and she was wearing yellow, and you could see the Royal Standard on the car.”

Keller and her daughter are avid readers and thanks to Anne, Keller has been receiving the monthly Majesty magazine since the 1980s.

“One of my favorite issues over the years was from when the queen was at the Kentucky Derby in 2007,” she said. “She always wore bright colors to be spotted in the crowd.”

Her love of horses drew the queen to Kentucky five times between 1984 and 2007, and her final visit to the state was 15 years ago to attend the 133rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Keller learned of the queen’s passing while shopping at Jay C Food Store, where she got a call from Anne, telling her the news.

“The queen had a long life, and I expected it since she was 96 years old, but it was surprising since she had met with the prime minister just two days before,” Keller said.

Anne said it’s a unique thing to note that in the history of England, in less than a week, they’ve had two monarchs and two prime minsters there to pay their last respects to the queen.

“They started the week with prime minister Boris Johnson and the monarch was Queen Elizabeth II, and two days later, it was King Charles III and the new prime minister, Liz Truss,” she said. “The queen had met the new prime minster on a Tuesday and then died that Thursday.”

Anne said it the queen’s final engagement ever was greeting Truss, the new prime minister, at her estate in Scotland.

Keller said people think of the queen’s life as having been perfect, but certainly in later years, she had the same family problems that many families have.

She said from World War II in the 20th century and into the 21st century, Queen Elizabeth II is supposedly the most photographed woman in the world, she had never been known to say a word of criticism, never gave an interview, never commented on politics and never shared her thoughts to the public about any world leaders or presidents she had met.

“It was like a fairy tale with real people, and maybe that’s the allure, and I think maybe most little girls would want to see the tiara and the riggings, so to speak, and my fascination definitely grew,” she said.