Queen Elizabeth II has been central to British life for longer than most of us have been alive.
She’s been the linchpin of everything that has made our little kingdom great for the past 64 years and has never given us reason to feel anything but proud.
With her 90th birthday approaching, what better time to celebrate our longest-reigning monarch while sharing memories of her many visits to Sussex. We want to see your pictures and hear your memories of the day the Queen came to town.
Or perhaps you were lucky enough to meet her at another event such as one of the
garden parties at Buckingham Palace. We also want to hear about any plans you have to celebrate her 90th birthday.
The Queen has visited Crawley four times – once when she was still Princess Elizabeth. The first visit, in 1950, saw the young Princess open Manor Royal.
The visit was captured by British Pathé in a film called ‘The World In Camera: Princess Elizabeth in Crawley (1950)’. It included the interesting fact that she was the person who chose the name for Manor Royal.
Over footage of excited crowds, the rich-voiced commentator said: “To the youngest of the new towns, Crawley, comes Princess Elizabeth to open the road that will run through the industrial areas. Closely kept secret was the highway’s name – Manor Royal – chosen by the Princess from an old Tithe map of the district. Later, in old Crawley, the Princess plants a young maple tree to commemorate the town’s historic wartime association with the Canadian Army. Using a spade first used by Royalty 70 years ago, the Princess brings new life to an old corner of Sussex.”
After ascending the throne, her first visit to Crawley as Queen came on June 9 1958, when she officially opened the revamped and extended Gatwick Airport. She then headed into Crawley where she planted a tree as she opened the newly completed Queens Square.
It was 11 years before the Queen returned to Crawley. On December 17 1969, she officially opened Holy Trinity School – although lessons had been running there since 1967 – and visited the town hall. Her last visit was on November 3 2006 when Queens Square was packed with cheering well-wishers as she met local dignitaries before heading off to Thomas Bennett Community College.
West Sussex has been a popular destination for the Queen. She attended the Maundy Service, in Chichester Cathedral on March 27 1986; visited Durrington High School, Worthing, on March 26 1999; and wowed the crowds at the South of England Show in 1984 and 2002.
You can email your pictures and accounts of your memories of the day you saw the Queen to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or write to Crawley Observer, Springfield House, Springfield Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 2RG. Don’t forget to tell us about any plans you have to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Big plans for Her Majesty’s even bigger day
One thing the UK does well is throw a right royal knees-up.
We celebrated the Queen’s Coronation in 1952, when she took to the throne at the tender age of 25; we held street parties galore for her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the Golden Jubilee in 2002.
We did the same thing for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and there will no doubt be celebrations on a massive scale in 2022 when she becomes the first monarch to reach the impressive Platinum Jubilee, at the grand old age of 95.
Given the Queen Mother lived to be 101, the smart money should be on Her Majesty making that platinum milestone with ease.
There are big plans in place to celebrate her 90th birthday.
While the day itself falls on April 21, a four-night pageant will be held at Windsor Castle from Thursday May 12 to Sunday May 15, celebrating her life, her loves of horses, her dedication to the Commonwealth and international affairs and her deep involvement with the Navy, Army and Air Force.
A 90-minute spectacular planned for the Sunday will be televised on ITV from around 8.30pm and will include 900 horses and more than 1,500 participants from around the UK and the World.
It will take viewers on a journey from the Queen’s birth in Bruton Street, Mayfair, in 1926, through to World War Two, when, refusing to allow her daughters to be evacuated to Canada, her mother famously said: “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.”
It will cover her marriage in Westminster Abbey in 1947 to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten; her return to the Abbey for her Coronation on June 2 1953; and her reign of more than 60 years.
The festivities will not end there. The birthday girl and the Duke of Edinburgh will attend a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday June 10. She will then be joined by other members of the Royal Family at The Queen’s Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade on Saturday June 11.
The long weekend will finish on Sunday June 12 with a Patron’s Lunch - a celebration of Her Majesty’s patronage of more than 600 organisations in the UK and around the Commonwealth since 1952.
That’s a hectic schedule for anyone half her age.
At a more local level, several councils have signed up for the lighting of a 90th birthday beacon. So far, Crawley Borough Council, Burgess Hill Town Council, Northiam Parish Council, Hunston Parish Council, Uckfield Town Council, Winchelsea Corporation, Bognor Regis Town Council and Littlehampton Town Council have pledged to do the honours in Sussex.
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