Queen of Smiles, ran the headline in The Press on Friday, April 6. The day before, The Queen had visited York – in her own Diamond Jubilee year, and in York’s 800th anniversary year – to hand out Maundy Money at York Minster.
People started gathering at Micklegate Bar – the traditional point of entry to the city for a reigning monarch – and in the city centre and outside York Minster as early as 6.15am. By 11am, thousands were lining the streets as Her Majesty reached the Minster. Many were locals – others had travelled from all over the world.
“I’ve seen your Queen five times!” said 35-year-old Jen klawson from Washington in the USA. “I just love the way everybody gets excited about her!”.
Teacher Louise Robson, 32, from South Bank, was wearing a Union Flag hat originally made for the royal wedding in 2011. “I love the Queen,” she said. “I was here in 2000 when she came to York.”
The main order of the day was handing out Maundy money in the Minster to 172 pensioners. But following a reception at the Deanery, the Royal party went on to the mansion House, for a civic lunch with local dignitaries and with winners of the 2011 York Community Pride Awards.
Eighteen-year-old Paisley Laws, the winner of the 2011 Spirit of Youth award, was seated next to Princess Beatrice, The Queen’s granddaughter, for lunch. “I will remember it forever, it was an overwhelming experience,” she said.
The Queen’s visit ended, very appropriately, with a visit to a new exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum designed to celebrate the 800th anniversary of York being granted its Royal Charter by King John.
Before and after the Queen’s visit, life went on as normal. The Archbishop of York carried out his traditional open-air Easter baptisms outside the Minster, in defiance of the chilly weather; the bank Holiday was a cold, wet and windy washout; but visitors to York retained their sense of humour.
Dizzy the duck became a media star when she and her brood of young ducklings became regular visitors to the Hairy Fig deli in Fossgate. But there was animal sadness, too, when According to Pete, the Norton-trained racehorse, suffered a fatal fall in the Grand National.