Oakham School is honoured to have hosted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on two visits to the county of Rutland and the School. In this short exhibition, we will take a look back through these visits and commemorate The Queen's dedication to public service, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth.
The first visit of Her Majesty The Queen to Oakham on the 12th May 1967 saw her accompanied by Prince Philip. Their visit to Oakham town and Oakham School was part of a larger Royal visit to the county of Rutland. The preparation for the Royal visit had started the previous term. A description of the changes can be read in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer Term 1967, vol. 84, pp.3-4: 'First came the gangs to gravel and regravel Wharflands drive; then Church Street was scrupulously mended, and then the horse-shoes went up along the route; finally on the day before the visit Union Jacks decked the horse-shoes and graceful flower cages were suspended from the lampposts.'
The Queen and the Duke were in Oakham for an hour. The Royal Train arrived at Oakham Station at 10am. Her Majesty was received by Capt Haywood, Lord Lieutenant of the County and Chairman of the Trustees of the School, and then Major Bowes, Deputy Lieutenant, escorted Her Majesty during her inspection of the combined Oakham and Uppingham Schools’ Guard of Honour, commanded by Lt Col H.J. Cox.
The Royal motorcade drove through the High Street and arrived at the Castle, where the town ceremonies were held. Oakham School’s CCF forces helped guard the Castle. Mr Walton, Art teacher, was responsible for the design and execution of the scroll presented to Her Majesty by Sir Kenneth Ruddle. Three School House stalwarts assisted in transporting the horseshoe from the dais to the Castle.
From there, they progressed to Doncaster Close where they were greeted by over 3,000 children from schools across Rutland. The Oakham School concert band played the national anthem and the Royal Standard was raised at the cricket pavilion's flag post. 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.
'They toured the field in a Land Rover, to the accompaniment of enthusiastic cheers and frantic waving of flags, while the band played light music. As the Land Rover reached the pavilion, the Queen and Prince Philip dismounted and the Headmaster and Mrs Buchanan were among those presented to them.'
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's Award and was presented with a toy for Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
They continued their review of the school children by Land Rover, finally dismounting at the entrance to the Wharflands classroom block, where the Queen inaugurated a special ambulance service for disabled people and signed the town’s visitor’s book. They then departed for Gunthorpe.
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 three 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 Nursery 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's Award scheme awaited him. Prince Philip was introduced to Dr Lawrence, Dr Gunn and Mr Needham.
The Queen and the Duke planted two trees to commemorate their visit and the School’s 400th anniversary.
The Queen performed the Theatre’s opening ceremony and saw a 15-minute play written in her honour, To be 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.
“En route to the Theatre, the Queen and the Duke stopped, as they had frequently while walking from one place to another, to speak to many pupils, including the smallest boy in school, Haydn Smith of Lower One”.
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.”
They left Oakham at 2.45pm for Uppinham School.
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.