The Queen in Surrey
- Credit: Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre, Woking.
Take a look back in time at a selection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s most notable visits to our county. By The Surrey Lieutenancy
Put on your Sunday best, pour the tea, and get set to wave the Union Jack as the nation celebrates Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to observe a Platinum Jubilee – a milestone reached earlier this year on February 6 – marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. This special occasion is being celebrated across the nation with a four-day bank holiday weekend, from Thursday June 2 until Sunday June 5.
‘Her Majesty's historic reign reaching seven decades is a once in a lifetime event and there are lots of ways to mark the occasion nationally and in Surrey,’ says Michael More-Molyneux, the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey. ‘There will be various street parties and festivities taking place and Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family will be in attendance at the Cazoo Derby at Epsom Downs on June 4. To set the scene of a long weekend to remember, we shine a light on a selection of Her Majesty’s most notable visits to our county.’
County Hall, Kingston upon Thames, 1961
The Queen’s trip to the historic home of Surrey County Council involved viewing an exhibition of the County Council’s work and unveiling a commemorative plaque to mark the visit. She then retired to the Ashcombe Room to sign the visitors’ book and take tea in the company of guests including the Chairman of the County Council Alderman Sydney W L Ripley.
Gordon's School, Woking, 1985
It was Queen Victoria who insisted on a national memorial to the philanthropist and war hero General Gordon, giving rise to Gordon Boys’ Home for necessitous boys, which evolved years later into the West End school we know today. Gordon's has a long association with The Royal Family and, in particular, the reigning sovereign who has been the patron since its inception. The school last welcomed the Queen at its centenary celebrations in 1985 when Her Majesty unveiled a plaque.
Surrey Space Centre, Guildford, 1998
The Queen opened Surrey Space Centre in 1998 and embarked on a tour of the facilities accompanied by the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the Chancellor of the University of Surrey Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Her Majesty had visited the campus previously in 1992 to inaugurate the building. This latest visit offered a glimpse the small satellite technology being developed at the centre.
Sunbury Gallery, 2001
The Queen visited Sunbury Gallery on June 14, 2001 to view a special embroidery to commemorate the millennium. Her Majesty spent almost two hours among the 500 or so invited guests and met with many of the 147 embroiderers, including chief embroiderer Pam Judd, who contributed over 100,000 hours of their time towards the completed work. Titled the Village Panel and measuring 3m x 1m, it comprises over 130 separate pieces of embroidery with its design featuring churches, public houses and examples of Sunbury's architecture, telling the story of the community from Saxon times to the present.
The Queen was escorted by David Brown, then chairman of the project, who had the original idea for the project. Afterwards, she was served tea by local Girl Guides and spoke with schoolchildren.
An appeal to raise £450,000 found the embroidery a permanent home in the 18th century Walled Garden, which subsequently opened to the public in 2006.
Royal Maundy Service, Guildford Cathedral, 2006
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, attended the Royal Maundy Service at Guildford Cathedral on April 13, 2006. During the service, the Queen distributed Maundy Money to 80 men and 80 women – a nod to her 80th birthday year. Each recipient received two purses: a red purse and a white purse. The recipients were all retired pensioners recommended by the clergy and ministers of all denominations, in recognition of service to the church and to the community.
Did you know?
If you are presented to The Queen, the correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am,' pronounced with a short 'a,' as in 'jam' (Source: The Royal Household)
Royal Holloway College, Egham, 2014
In 2014, the Queen visited Royal Holloway College, University of London with the Duke of Edinburgh, to recognise the Department of Music’s achievements in research and teaching. The visit celebrated the Diamond Jubilee Regius Professorship of Music, awarded by the Queen in 2013 to Professor Julian Johnson. Its was the first time the honour had ever been bestowed on a department of music. The Queen also unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit and signed the university’s visitors’ book for a second time.
Reed's School, Cobham, 2014
As the 15th patron of Reed’s School (the first being Edward, Duke of Kent in 1815), the Queen has personally selected a Foundation pupil each year since 1946 to be the recipient of the Royal Bursary Award. 2014 marked the bicentenary of the school and to mark the occasion the Queen unveiled a specially commissioned stained-glass window designed by Helen Whittaker of Barley Studios York. The Queen and the Duke toured the school, met students who receive the Queen’s Bursary and signed a photograph for the Bicentenary Time Capsule.
Magna Carta anniversary, Runnymede, 2015
All eyes were on Runnymede Meadow as the Queen led the nation’s 800th anniversary celebration of Magna Carta, the Great Charter. Watched by 4,000 guests, Her Majesty unveiled a plaque marking the historic event in the company of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal. She was greeted by the (then) Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, who had earlier welcomed HRH The Duke of Cambridge to the celebration of music, drama and art hosted by Surrey County Council and The National Trust.
The event drew more than 1,000 guests from the US to watch the rededication of the Magna Carta Memorial. At 12.15pm, the Red Arrows roared over Runnymede Meadow trailing a red, white and blue fly past.
The Vet School, Guildford, 2015
The University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine was officially opened by the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, in 2015. They toured the £45 million school with its cutting edge clinical skills facilities and met a variety of people there, including students undertaking equine examinations and working with livestock, ‘Supervet’ Professor Noel Fitzpatrick and dogs that had benefitted from prosthetic limb surgery. They also spoke with students and staff during teaching sessions.
Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, Englefield Green, Runnymede memorial, 2021
The Queen chose Surrey – and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Air Forces Memorial – for her first official visit of 2021. She was there on March 31 to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force and watched a Red Arrows flypast, formal presentations, a short service and wreath laying.
Next, the Queen viewed the Australian wall of remembrance and signed a commemorative document. The Runnymede Memorial, overlooking the River Thames, commemorates by name the 20,456 men and women of the air forces from all parts of the Commonwealth who were lost in World War II and have no known graves. It was on October 17 1953 that, as our newly crowned monarch, Her Majesty first visited to unveil the poignant landmark.
The Queen at the Derby
Her Majesty The Queen is known for her love for horseracing and she has rarely missed the annual Derby at Epsom Downs during her reign. This year, alongside members of the Royal Family, she is set to be in attendance at the Cazoo Derby over the Platinum Jubilee weekend.
‘The Queen has only missed four visits to The Derby since her Coronation and two of those were in the last two years during the pandemic,’ says Phil White, London regional director at The Jockey Club.
The two-day event, which is set to attract over 35,000 people, is pulling out all the stops to celebrate The Queen’s special links to the Derby and her contribution to horseracing, starting with The Queen's Stand at Epsom Downs Racecourse being permanently renamed The Queen Elizabeth II Stand on June 2.
On Cazoo Derby Day on Saturday June 4, which forms part of the official Platinum Jubilee celebrations, a guard of honour will be formed on the track by 40 retired and current jockeys who have ridden for Her Majesty, dressed in the monarch’s famous purple and gold silks. The welcoming party will include 79-year-old four-time Derby winner Willie Carson, who rode The Queen’s Oaks winner Dunfermline in 1977, John Reid who won The Derby in 1992 and current riders Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore, both of whom have won The Derby twice.
‘It's not just the horseracing she enjoys, she enjoys the breeding side of it,’ says Willie Carson of The Queen. ‘She likes to know from trainers how the horse is behaving and its attitude, its temperament. She wants to know those things. That's what she's really interested in. The winning post is the end result and she enjoys that, of course, but she enjoys everything before you get to the winning post. That gives her the most pleasure.’
The Derby remains the only one of the five ‘Classics’ Her Majesty, who is patron of The Jockey Club, is yet to win as a racehorse owner. It’s hoped she’ll have a runner in this year’s Cazoo Derby, with three horses currently entered in the race: Educator, General Idea and Reach For The Moon. A victory would be only the second time a reigning monarch has won The Derby, after Minoru in 1909 who ran for King Edward VII.
The Queen's long standing links to the Derby can be traced to her coronation year in 1953 when, just four days after her ceremony, she came to see her first runner: Aureole, bred by King George VI. The horse finished second and is the closest Her Majesty has come to victory in the race.
She has enjoyed a triumph in the Coronation Cup, however, marking her first major victory at the racecourse in 1954. Just three years later, she secured a Classic success on the Downs when Carroza won The Oaks. Two decades on, in the year of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, she marked her second Oaks success with Dunfermline.
At the 2016 Derby Festival, which celebrated the Queen's 90th birthday, Her Majesty presented the Derby trophy to the winning connections. For the year only, the Coronation Cup was re-named The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup.
To find out more, see thejockeyclub.co.uk/epsom
Surrey’s Diamond Jubilee gift
The county bestowed The Queen with a special gift to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The mahogany box contains six silver racehorses with their jockeys enamelled in the racing colours of members of the Royal Family. The horses run out from the box on strings and race back to the finish. In the lid are cards showing a plan of each of the four Surrey racecourses: Epsom Downs, Kempton Park, Lingfield Park and Sandown Park.