As the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II and celebrates her life, a southwest Florida couple is reflecting on their time with her.

Richard Ainsworth and Joanna Syme dated the Queen decades ago.

Ainsworth has something in common with the Queen. “I’ve always loved horses, I grew up with horses.”

This passion led him to join her Household Cavalry in the 1970s, where he acted as Her Majesty’s bodyguard. Ainsworth now owns the Everglades Equestrian Center.

“It was an opportunity where I could get the best of both worlds, learning how to be a mechanic in an armored car unit and also getting some ceremonial duties with the horses, so it was a great experience,” Ainsworth said.

This opportunity took him to Buckingham Palace, where he managed to have tea with Queen Elizabeth II.

“We sat at the back in the garden, which is very, very beautiful. And she served tea. She did serve tea. Yes, yes, that was her character. She was very, very down to earth, very witty. I mean just someone you would want to meet and talk to,” Ainsworth said.

This love of horses led him to his wife Joanna Sime, who also met the Queen when she competed in gymnastics at Her Majesty’s Commonwealth Games.

“It was my first performance in front of the Queen, like 80,000 people in the audience, and then the Queen,” Syme said. “And so it was, it was a pleasure to meet her, a real privilege.”

Now their love of horses has become a family affair. The couple join the rest of the UK and the world in mourning their beloved monarch.

“She’s been there all our lives. Since the day we were born, said Syme.

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