The visit of the Queen on Thursday will be a day of ceremony and celebration. As well as being accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice, Her Majesty will be guided through the city by the Lord Mayor and the council’s chief executive.
But the Queen has been to York so often, she could probably find her way round on her own.
In anticipation of her arrival, to mark both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the York 800 celebrations, YorkMix recalls her previous visits. It’s a story of weddings, armed marksmen, horses and lots and lots of waving.
June 8, 1961: Wedding bells
Not only the Queen, but the whole Royal Family, turned out for the wedding of the Duke of Kent and local girl Katharine Worsley from Hovingham Hall.
It was the first royal wedding at the Minster since Edward III got hitched in 1328. A fair few celebs turned out, including Douglas Fairbanks and Noel Coward.
York Minster was decorated with thousands of white roses. And the Queen wore a hat bedecked with the same flower. The Times reported:
“The great grey minster with its towering pillars reaching up to the delicate tracery of the roof, and the softly beautiful windows were the perfect setting. Stone urns full of yellow and white roses were breathtakingly beautiful.”
October 22, 1965: On campus
On a day so foggy that the royal flight had to be cancelled, the Queen was back in York at its new university to open Derwent and Langwith colleges. Together with the Duke of Edinburgh, she was greeted by the Chancellor, Lord Harewood.
This is how the University of York’s own archive remembers the occasion:
“Cleaning ladies had polished the floor of Heslington Hall to such a sheen that they were afraid the Queen would slip. Her Majesty was impressed by Heslington hall but ‘did not like the new colleges’.
“Six black golfing-size umbrellas were bought for the occasion of the Queen’s visit, and Head Porter, Harry Tyerman, had the job of holding one of them over the Queen in the event of rain.
“As the Queen and Prince Philip passed through Derwent College, the Duke asked a female student what she was studying. She replied, ‘Sociology’. There was laughter when the Prince asked her, ‘Are you going to practise it on your husband?’.”
June 28, 1971: Birthday bash
This time round the city is celebrating York 800, the 800th anniversary of York becoming a self-governing city. But of course the place is a lot older than that.
In 1971 York was celebrating its 1,900th birthday, having been founded by the Romans in AD71.
The royal party made their way through Micklegate Bar where, by tradition, they must ask permission to enter the city. No Lord Mayor has turned Her Majesty down yet.
They enjoyed lunch at the Assembly Rooms and moved on to Museum Gardens to watch an excerpt from the York Pageant created as part of the anniversary celebrations.
The happy crowds would not have known it, but for organisers this was a particularly tense occasion, as The Times reported.
“The visit by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to York’s 1,900th anniversary celebrations ended without incident this evening after a day of discreet but strict security precautions. A second letter threatening the Queen’s life had been set to the head office of the Yorkshire Evening Press in York. Like the first, it was printed in capitals and addressed to ‘the Headitor’.
“It read: ‘The Angery Brigade wish to say that the Queen will be shot in the Museum Gardens. This is no fantasy.’ The letter was posted in York on Sunday evening. It was handed to the police, who increased security along the royal route. More than 400 police officers were on duty…
“The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh rode in an open carriage from York racecourse to the city centre a mile away. Four Army Scout cars, not in the original schedule, joined the procession, and York police said that uniformed and plain-clothes officers had been armed with pistols and rifles. These were not evident, although a detective was seen walking through York among the crowds with a rifle case slung over his shoulder.”
March 30, 1972: Minster Maundy
The Queen will distribute the Maundy Money in the Minster on Thursday. Forty years ago she did the same thing on a cold, drizzly day.
Many of the women in the congregation wore Easter straw hats sporting scarlet roses. The scarlet was repeated in the medieval uniforms of the Yeoman of the Guard, the choir surplices, and the robes of the Aldermen and the Archbishop of York, Dr Donald Coggan.
This is how the Court Circular summed up the day:
“The Queen, attended by the Hon Mary Morrison, Mr William Heseltine and Squadron Leader Peter Beer, arrived at York Central Railway Station this morning and was received by Her Majesty’s Lieutenant for the West Riding of the County and for the City of York (Brigadier Kenneth Hargreaves) and the Lord Mayor (Alderman Richard Scruton). The Queen then drove to York Minster, was received by the Archbishop of York, and attended the Maundy Service at which Her Majesty distributed the Royal Maundy. The Queen subsequently honoured the Dean and Chapter with Her presence at luncheon in the Treasurer’s House, Minster Court. This afternoon, Her Majesty inspected the work of restoration at York Minster, left Royal Air Force Rufforth in an aircraft of The Queen’s Flight for Heathrow Airport, London, and drove to Windsor Castle.”
May, 1974: Day at the races
Ever the keen racegoer, the Queen attended York Races several times in the Seventies. Here she is in 1974 watching Lester Piggott dismount from Escorial after winning the Musidora Stakes.
June, 1977: Jubilee glee
Her Majesty’s tour to mark 25 years on the throne inevitably came through York, and via Micklegate once more.
A trumpet fanfare heralded their arrival and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh went for an informal walkabout among the crowds.
May 16, 1983: Colour and troops
After her traditional procession along Micklegate – her 18-minute walkabout lasted twice as long as had been scheduled – the Queen was taken to the Imperial Barracks. She was visiting to welcome home the men of the division which had returned home after 41 years of service abroad.
At the barracks she reviewed the parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the Territorial Army. Later she met veterans, five of whom had enlisted in the TA’s first year, 1908.
The Queen returned to York Minster in November 1988 to re-dedicate the South Transept four years after fire had devastated the cathedral.
July 27, 2000: Waits and see
For their first visit of the new millennium, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh chose to travel on the Royal Train, the Prince Henry. They were greeted by cheering crowds at York station.
The royal couple were accompanied on their walkabout by music from the York Waits, a band who have their own place in royal history. The Waits, first formed in the 15th century, had previously greeted James I, Charles and probably Richard III and Henry VIII.
The next stop was York Minster. Twelve years after she had admired its restoration, the Queen was back inside Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral. Afterwards the Queen chatted to well-wishers in Duncombe Place.
Following lunch at the Treasurer’s House the Queen cut a red ribbon to release 500 yellow and blue balloons to launch the Summer Daze play scheme in Museum Gardens. Later they came face-to-face with giant reptiles at the Yorkshire Museum’s Walking With Dinosaurs exhibition.
June, 2005: Shaking that Ascot
Owing to renovations at its home racecourse, the Royal Ascot meeting relocated to York. Naturally the Queen and her family came too.