EXCLUSIVE: MBE-winning NHS nurse, 60, ‘thought it was a hoax’ when she got the phone call inviting her to be part of the congregation at Queen’s funeral
An MBE-winning nurse “thought it was a hoax” when she received a phone call inviting her to be part of the congregation at the Queen’s funeral on Monday.
Nancy O’Neill of Bradford has worked as a nurse for over 41 years and was awarded the third highest Order of the British Empire as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors this year.
The 60-year-old was awarded an MBE for her four decades in the health service and her efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Colleagues from the NHS Bradford District and Craven CCG described her as a “great asset” to the NHS.
Ms. O’Neill recently received a call from the cabinet office and was hoping that the conversation would be about when she would collect her award.
But instead, the official invited her to the Queen’s funeral on Monday at Westminster Abbey with 2,000 politicians, dignitaries and world leaders.
Nancy O’Neill was awarded an MBE for her time in the health service, where she has worked for 41 years, and her efforts during the pandemic.
The NHS worker thought the call was a hoax before the news sank in and began to feel overwhelmed with emotion.
The late monarch’s state funeral is expected to be viewed by more than 4 billion people worldwide, breaking the previous record of 3.5 billion that reportedly watched boxing great Muhammad Ali open the Atlanta Olympics in nineteen ninety six.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Ms O’Neill said: ‘It still feels quite surreal. My family and grandchildren are very excited and even when I am sitting in a seat [at Westminster Abbey] it won’t look real.
I wouldn’t have expected to be drafted in a million years. I was thinking of lining up to see the Queen lying in state and bringing my grandchildren down, going through the coffin and participating in the grieving process.
“When she died, I was shocked at the depth of feelings she had for someone she had never met. The nation as a whole feels very sad.
‘I have another family funeral on Tuesday for an elderly relative who died the same day as the Queen.
Ms O’Neill was described as a ‘great asset’ by the Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (pictured) when she was inducted into the Queen’s Birthday Honors list this year for an award .
“I think it will be a strange and emotional day. It will be something historic. The story will weigh heavily throughout it. There will be an element of emotion… it will be a mixture of emotions.
Kings and queens will arrive from most countries, politicians who are seen on TV and seen in the news.
I don’t want to see anyone in particular, I don’t expect to have small talk as it will be a somber occasion.
But nobody does pomp and ceremony like the British. It will be a spectacular event and I hope it does justice to the woman and monarch that she was.”
‘It crossed my mind that the phone call might be a hoax. But then I thought how exciting and what an honor it is. That was the sum of the total conversation.
I didn’t tell anyone for a few days and I didn’t know if I was allowed to tell anyone.
‘When I did it everyone was like wow, that’s amazing, that was my reaction too.
‘My grandchildren can’t wait to tell their friends when they go to school on Tuesday.’
Ms O’Neill said she hoped to fly to London on Sunday to soak up the atmosphere.
She told MailOnline that she still gets “enormous” satisfaction from her NHS job and intends to continue until she no longer enjoys it.