Youth mentor Natalie Queiroz MBE holds the Queen as a shining example of how to weather through when times get tough (Picture: Emily Manley/Natalie Queiroz/Getty)
An anti-knife crime campaigner who had a front row seat at the Queen’s funeral has drawn on Her Majesty’s legacy to continue her youth work through dark times.
Natalie Queiroz MBE said that the monarch’s abiding belief in the power of people and communities to ‘pull through’ resonates at a time when young lives are being lost on the streets.
She took her place among royals, heads of state, community champions and inspirational people from all walks of life who paid their respects to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The youth mentor from Sutton Coldfield was invited to the funeral after being awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022 for ‘Services to Young People and the Prevention of Knife Crime’.
‘To me, the Queen was somebody of strength and determination who did not suffer fools but was also a person who brought communities together and gave them hope in really tough times,’ she said.
‘The Queen lived through some exceptionally tough years, she had a very long reign, and there were years in more recent history such as “annus horribilis”, where she acknowledged things weren’t great in the world around her. This is kind of where things are at with knife crime, where we can say, “this is where we’re at, but things can be better”.
Natalie Queiroz was recognised for her community work on a day she will never forget (Picture: Natalie Queiroz)
‘In the Queen’s speech about coronavirus you can see her message of hope, that we can pull through together. It’s one part of her legacy to always remember, something I will always hold dear.
‘Let’s bring communities together, embrace our diversity and help our young people to see there is a better way forward.
‘We need to show respect and kindness and do things with a sense of fun.
‘Life doesn’t always have to be serious and the Queen always had that wicked glint in her eye.
‘Bring all of this together and that I believe is her legacy.’
Natalie, 47, found a new path in life after she was stabbed 24 times by her then partner while she was heavily pregnant seven years ago. Her third child was born by Caesarean section as doctors fought to save their lives.
She went on to set up Inspire 2 Quit Blades, a not-for-profit company focused on preventing youth violence and knife crime.
The Queen’s funeral cortege borne on the State Gun Carriage of the Royal Navy travels along The Mall (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral was attended by around 2,000 mourners from around the world (Picture: Danny Lawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
King Charles III and Prince William salute as they attend the state funeral and burial of Queen Elizabeth (Picture: Hannah Mckay/Pool Photo via AP)
The Community Interest Company is also aimed at empowering young people to live their best lives away from gangs and exploitation.
The mum-of-three’s work earned her a place among 200 members of the public recognized in the June 2022 honours who were invited to the funeral.
They took their places among an overall congregation of 2,000 people at the final farewell for Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral on September 8 last year, aged 96.
‘The day of the funeral was a really incredible day,’ Natalie said.
‘There were so many different parts you can talk about…
‘Everybody had that kind of silent respect and knowing that everyone was coming with their different memories and thoughts of the Queen, all coming to pay their respects.’
Having arrived early at around 5am for a BBC interview, Natalie was ushered into a front row seat at the service, which took place 11 days after Her Majesty’s passing.
Natalie with Dr Hsien Chew who attended the Queen’s funeral in recognition of his work for LGBTQ+ choirs (Picture: Natalie Queiroz)
‘There was a real sense of people coming together, no matter what their background,’ she said. ‘There were loads of people from some very prestigious backgrounds and you are just all there chatting.
‘There was a surreal moment when President Biden came in and I thought, “ok, the President of the United States of America is now walking past with the First Lady and this is really bizarre.
‘I’m normally in a school in Birmingham or Wolverhampton or maybe a Pupil Referral Unit working with young people who have been permanently excluded from mainstream education or maybe even in a young adult prison and here I am at Westminster Abbey at the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen and the President of the USA has walked past me.
Natalie displays her MBE after attending an investiture at Windsor Castle in recognition of her work (Picture: Natalie Queiroz)
‘When they brought the coffin in it was like being at a family funeral because we’ve grown up with the Queen, she’s on stamps, coins, ten-pound notes and whatever else.’
The TEDx speaker is striving to make a difference at a time when the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales is at a record level, according to official figures. She has at times questioned if her work to stem the violence is paying off but has taken heart from having her efforts being recognized at the heart of British life.
‘It was a real sombre moment as well as a joyous occasion with all these people coming together to say goodbye to an incredible woman,’ Natalie said. ‘I don’t think anyone who was there that day will ever, ever forget it. It is a lifelong memory.’
The Queen continues to set an example through her legacy of hope in dark times (Picture: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The charity ambassador told Metro.co.uk that her work includes supporting young people and families through times of shock and trauma when they might have lost a loved one to an act of violence.
‘It’s really hard some days when you hear of another stabbing or loss of life and you hear youth violence figures that might have increased and you think, “am I making a difference?”,’ she said.
‘But then you remember it is important work. That whole day I was there because of this work and I was recognized by the Queen because of it.
‘The Queen kept going, she was strong, she was stoic, she was level-headed, and that’s what we need to remember when times are tough, when people are losing their heads and social media makes emotions go even wilder.
‘It’s just keeping that level head. Bring everyone together, stay united and just keep pushing through.’