In honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday on 21st April, we thought we’d delve into the archives to have a look back at Her Majesty’s many and varied connections with our corner of Warwickshire.
Like many members of the Royal Family, the Queen has been a frequent visitor to Shakespeare’s England during her record-breaking reign.
Over the years she’s made several visits to historic Stratford-upon-Avon. Her first as reigning monarch was to Shakespeare’s Birthplace in 1957. In 1986 she opened the Swan Theatre, then returned in 2011 to reopen the Royal Shakespeare Theatre following its major transformation – both theatres are home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Of course, Leamington’s full name isn’t Royal Leamington Spa for nothing. It too has welcomed various members of the Royal Family over the decades, with the latest being a visit by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to the Warwickshire Justice Centre in 2011. This followed a previous visit back in 1988, when the Queen opened the town’s £35 million Royal Priors shopping centre.
Neighbouring Warwick has also had its share of royal visits, including one by the Queen in 1996. The day’s jam-packed itinerary saw Her Majesty open St Michael’s Hospital and visit the Lord Leycester Hospital – a home for ex-servicemen – before lunching in the state dining room at Warwick Castle. A procession then took the royal party to Stratford-upon-Avon where the Queen unveiled the Swan fountain in the riverside Bancroft Gardens. This had been commissioned to mark the 800th anniversary of the town being granted borough status in 1196 by King Richard I (the Lionheart).
* Photo – Queen Elizabeth II leaving Shakespeare’s Birthplace on her first visit to Stratford in 1957. *