WARWICK district has been honoured to welcome the late Queen Elizabeth II on a number of occasions throughout her 70 year reign.
The first of such visits, and arguably most pivotal, was a visit she paid to Leamington in 1988 to officially open the Royal Priors Shopping Centre.
Still a major shopping destination for the town, packed full of recognisable household names such as Marks and Spencer, the Queen was there at the centre’s infancy to cut the ribbon and wish it well as it embarked on its journey towards commercial success.
Crowds of residents lined the pavements of the town, union flags waving wildly, to greet the Queen at the entrance to Royal Priors, with several fortunate members of the public given the opportunity to exchange a few words with her before she stepped inside.
While in the town, the Queen also unveiled a plaque at the town hall to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s granting of the royal warrant to Leamington and entered her name into the Regent’s Hotel visitors’ book where she notably had a ‘spot of bother’ with a faulty pen. The hotel owner at the time Frank Cridlan said of the pen: “Ma’am like myself it’s a little nervous”.
In 1996, crowds gathered on the streets of Warwick to see Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, when they visited the Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick Castle and St Michael’s Hospital.
They also spoke to Myton Hospice patients and chatted to members of the public on their walkabout in town.
The royal couple returned to the area in March 2011 when they opened the new Justice Centre in Leamington.
The Queen and Prince Philip were given a tour of Warwickshire Justice Centre in Newbold Road, and met local dignitaries including judges, magistrates, the High Sheriff of Warwickshire, councilllors and staff, as well as some of those responsible for building the centre. The couple were able to view the various courtrooms, the judge’s bench and were even shown an empty custody cell.
The Justice Centre brought together for the first time, and provided a base for, Warwickshire Police, the Probation Service and the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts.
The Queen spent time talking to the staff about their experiences working in the brand new building and wished everyone success.
As always, residents gathered for an opportunity to meet her and the Queen exchanged a few words with school children on leaving the centre.
This was the royal couple’s last visit to the town.
On the same day, they then went on to Stratford to officially open the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre following a three-and-a-half year transformation project.
The Queen was also a frequenter of the Royal Show held at Stoneleigh Park in Kenilworth over the decades. Records of her earliest visits date back to the 1960s.
Since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, the Royal Show has been one of the biggest events in the rural calendar and was therefore a fitting destination for a countryside-loving Queen famed for her passion for horses, countryside pursuits and of course, corgis.
The first Royal Show was held at Stoneleigh Park in 1963, before that travelling around a number of different countryside locations. Organisers called time on the event in 2009 due to a drop in visitor numbers. In its heyday in the 1980s, the event would boast up to 130,000 visitors.
The Queen’s final day out to the show – trademark green wellies, barbour jacket and famous headscarf de riguer – was in 2002.