Monday, December 11, 2023

Jamestown and Williamsburg Had Special Ties to Queen Elizabeth II

Greeting the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II greets local children at William & Mary in 2007. (File)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96, twice visited the Historic Triangle during her 70-year reign.

The Queen visited Virginia more than any other state in the U.S. during her reign, and that special tie to the area was reflected both in the lighting of William & Mary’s Wren Building this past June for her Platinum Jubilee, and in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Thursday order for flags to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the commonwealth until sunset on the day of her interment.

Guests gathered at the front of the College of William & Mary’s oldest building in June to kick off the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration. The occasion marked the 70th year of her reign. (WYDaily/Dominic Catacora)

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, first visited Jamestown for the 350th-anniversary celebration of the founding of the former British colony. Her 1957 royal visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg was the first ever by a reigning British monarch. 

In 1957, Prince Philip accompanied Queen Elizabeth II at Jamestown Festival Park, now known as Jamestown Settlement. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

The royals explored Jamestown Island and Jamestown Festival Park — now Jamestown Settlement — visiting the three reproduction ships docked at Jamestown, and even stepping aboard the Susan Constant.

The queen addresses a crowd at Jamestown Festival Park during their 1957 visit. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation recounted last year on the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh that Queen Elizabeth II delivered remarks to more than 40,000 people at Jamestown Festival Park that day.

The queen and Prince Philip also visited Colonial Williamsburg, having tea at the College of William & Mary, then attending a reception held in their honor at the Governor’s Palace before a dinner at the Williamsburg Inn.  

Prince Philip and the queen visited the Williamsburg Inn during their first visit. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg)

Fifty years later, in 2007, the Queen made a second visit to the Historic Triangle, coinciding with the 400th Anniversary. 

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip take a carriage ride down Duke of Gloucester Street in 2007. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg)

The royal couple also attended student education programs and presentations about the 400-year bond between America and Britain, and the royals returned to Colonial Williamsburg for a second time, where, as in 1957, they rode in a carriage through Duke of Gloucester Street, waving to the crowd as they passed.

Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, was 96. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor in 1926, she was the first child of Albert, Duke of York. Her father ascended to the throne when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated after his plans to marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson were deemed unacceptable.

As a 13-year-old princess, she met her future husband, third cousin Prince Philip of Greece, on a visit to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth where he was a cadet. In 1944, during the Second World War, she joined the military, learning to drive and service trucks.

Prince Charles on Duke of Gloucester Street near the capitol in May of 1981. (Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers and 14 U.S. presidents. Her first prime minister, Winston Churchill, was born in 1874 in the Victorian era. The formal appointment on Tuesday of a new prime minister, Liz Truss, born 101 years later, proved to be the queen’s final public appearance.

The death of the monarch launches a period of mourning in the United Kingdom of at least 10 days, and an intricate series of events that have been years in the planning, including succession, the queen’s funeral, and the eventual coronation of her eldest son, 73-year-old Charles. Charles immediately became the monarch on her passing and will be known as King Charles III, according to a royal spokesman quoted in media reports.

King Charles III (then Prince Charles) also has visited Colonial Williamsburg twice — in 1981 and again in 1993 for William & Mary’s 300th anniversary.

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