Oakham School is honoured to have hosted the Duke of Edinburgh on several visits to the school. These visits spanned the majority of his time as Her Majesty's consort. In this short exhibition, we will take a look back through these visits and commemorate the Duke's dedication to public service, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth.
On the 9th November, The Duke of Edinburgh made his first visit to Oakham in the capacity of the royal consort. His first stop was presenting the Lord of the Manor at Oakham Castle with a ceremonial horseshoe. Following this, Prince Philip was met in the market place by the then headmaster, Talbot Griffith and Sir Eric Gore Browne (the chairman of trustees) and led to the Chapel where the Duke inspected the guard of honour mounted by the school CCF. His Royal Highness then paid tribute to the school's two war memorials - the chapel and the war memorial library. The Oakhamian Magazine of Winter 1957 praised the CCF for rising to the "occasion and their drill and turn out were quite first class. The Band under Drum Major Strang are particularly to be congratulated both on their smartness and on their playing.”
The first visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Oakham on the 12th May 1967 saw her accompanied by Prince Philip. The Queen and Duke arrived in Oakham by train at 10am and were greeted by Captain Haywood, Lord Lieutenant of the county and chairman of the School's trustees. The royal couple presented a horseshoe at the castle and were themselves presented with a ceremonial scroll.
From there, they progressed to Doncaster Close where they were greeted by over 3000 children from schools across Rutland. Oakham School concert band played the national anthem and the royal standard was raised. Major Davenport-Handley and Mr R. K. Gibbs (deputy chairman of the School's trustees) greeted the Queen and Prince Philip in advance of a tour of the field in a open top Land Rover.
The Oakhamian Magazine for Summer 1967 describes the “enthusiastic cheers and frantic waving of flags” as the royal party met then headmaster, John Buchanan. Prince Philip took time out of the day to speak to some of those in the school who were participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award and was presented with a toy for Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
A section from the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday 4th May 1973. Oakham School Collection, ACS/6/1/1. Copyright belongs to the Leicestershire, Rutland and Stamford Mercury.
The Duke met with pupils taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award at Rutland Sixth form college, including some Oakham School pupils. OO Charles Howes (who won the tent race with Michael Holyoake) described the Duke as a "good bloke, really cheerful and friendly". Prince Philip also shared a joke with OOs Chris Clough, James Hunt, Charles East, Nick Chown and Rigby Field as they participated in an open air survival display.
In 1984, Oakham School celebrated its Quatercentenary anniversary. As part of the celebrations, the Queen and Duke visited Oakham School once again on the 16th November, spending over 3 hours with staff and pupils.
When the royal party arrived, they were greeted by a fanfare of school trumpeters as well as Colonel and Mrs Haywood. The Queen and the Duke were then shown into the old hall where they signed a scroll and portraits before being presented with a copy of The Story of Oakham School by John Barber. Pupils eagerly awaited the royal couple in the School House Quad before a Rolls Royce parked outside of the chapel drove them around to the Beach. Amongst the crowds that were given view points along the route were staff, pupils from all houses, domestic and support staff, and finally children of Oakham School Nursey who can easily be distinguished as they were the only ones with flags.
From here, the royal couple split and the Duke was shown to the biology block where an exhibition about an expedition to Papua New Guinea and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme awaited him. Prince Philip was introduced to Dr Lawrence, Dr Gunn and Mr Needham.
The Duke and the Queen planted trees (a maple and a metasequioa) to commemorate their visit and first former Samantha Herridge presented the Queen with a bouquet of flowers.
Her Majesty officially opened the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (QET) and the royal party were treated to a special performance of To Set Before the Queen - a play written by John Weeks, music by Mike Knight and directed by Dermot Gilvary. The Supplement for the Oakhamian magazine 1984 describes how the "royal couple appeared to enjoy the performance.” What is notable from the reports and photographs of this visit is the time taken by the Queen and Prince Philip to stop and talk to pupils at every opportunity.
The school hosted the royal couple for a luncheon where the Queen was entertained by the head boy, Miles Linney, and the Duke was seated next to head girl Vanessa Bailey. As the Oakhamian supplement commented, “Vanessa clearly made a hit with the Duke, who jested with her as she got up to make her speech.”
A thank you letter written by the Queen's personal secretary talking about how much the Queen and the Duke enjoyed their visit to the school. Oakhamian Magazine Supplement, 1984.
On the 28th November 2000, to celebrate the school’s 1000th gold award, the Duke of Edinburgh himself attended a special event at the school. Oakham School was the first ever institution to achieve this milestone.
The official 1000th gold award was awarded to head girl, Selina Conboy, in front of an audience in the Smallbone Library.
Amongst the award were Duke of Edinburgh award winners past and present including the very first gold award winner, Tony Barber. The first girl to be presented the gold award was Mary Melley in the 1970s.
After the presentation, the Duke took time to speak to staff and students.