CHRIS TITLEY charts the special relationship York holds for the Royal who used to bear the city's name...

ON APRIL 26 1923 a very "special relationship'' began. It was the day Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon became the Duchess of York by marrying Albert, second son of King George V. Bertie - his family shortened one of his names, though he later took another to be crowned King George VI - had been created Duke of York two years earlier. The title had been associated with the Royal Family since the 14th century when it was given to the brother of Edward the Black Prince.

The new Duchess paid her first visit to the city on June 24, 1925. Then she unveiled the restored Five Sisters Window in York Minster which was dedicated to the women of the Empire who had lost their lives in World War One.

With the Duke by her side she also paid a visit to the then York County Hospital.

The Royal couple visited again on July 13, 1932 for a Northern Command Military Tattoo. Then in 1937, their Coronation year, they managed a 90-minute informal stop-over in York during a three-day tour of the county, a mark of their dedication to their namesake city.

Accompanied by the Princess Royal, they visited the newly-decorated Mansion House before touring the Terry's factory. A commemorative booklet of the occasion recorded: "Three centuries having elapsed since a Crowned Monarch officially visited York, Tuesday the 19th of October, 1937, was naturally a proud day for the employees of all grades employed at Terry's Chocolate Works.

"Hundreds of happily excited workers - white, blue and khaki - rushed to take their places in neatly-ordered lines to welcome Their Majesties."

This York visit led, ten years later, to a remarkable display of the Queen Mother's amazing memory.

On August 1, 1947 she arrived for a Minden Day service at the Minster, being Colonel-in-Chief of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Later, at the Mansion House, she warmly greeted the customary flow of local people presented to her. As one of them stepped forward she exclaimed: "I know I've met you before.''

She had. It was Mrs Godfrey Irving, Lady Mayoress ten years earlier. Mrs Irving had welcomed the Queen to the Mansion House when she had popped in for a quick cup of tea during that informal visit.

York's people came out in force that day, as the report in the Evening Press recorded.

"Queen Elizabeth found the city bathed in summer sunshine, with thousands of cheering people lining her route through the streets, and the Minster bells ringing a peal of welcome.

"Buses from the city boundary were crowded with people from an early hour and when the civic party arrived at the end of Beckfield Lane and took up their position to greet Her Majesty, a crowd of some 4,000 people had already assembled.

"Wild cheering began as soon as the Royal car appeared in view, flying the Queen's standard, and, as it drew to a stop, Her Majesty could be seen waving a smiling greeting in acknowledgement."

An indication of the sign of the times occurred during that visit when the Queen congratulated Dr Catherine Crane on her appointment as York's Medical Officer - the first woman in the country to gain such a municipal appointment.

In the Minster, the Queen presented for dedication some 600-year-old windows as a memorial to The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, with five banners and charters of the cities and boroughs of Yorkshire who had given their freedom to the regiment.

A year later during a six-hour stay in York for the Royal Show, York's special Queen added her name to the expanding list of annual visitors to the Castle Museum. She was accompanied by the King and Princess Margaret, and as the party inspected the displays the crowd witnessed once again a display of that royal memory.

A solitary cry of "Tha Wha!'' issued from the back of the crowd, puzzling local citizens. The Queen, however, recognised this call and asked for the Castleford man to be brought forward. He was a member of the "Tha Wha'' concert party run by the Manchester Regiment when it was stationed at Balmoral during the war, and the Royal Family greeted him as an old friend.

Minden Day brought her back to the York in 1955, her first visit as Queen Mother. She attended the Minster for the Bi-Centenary Service, and later inspected the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Strensall barracks.

In 1960 she opened the restored Guildhall after its destruction by an air raid in 1942. Again, she was met by euphoric crowds. "Workers on a building site in Spurriergate had an excellent view from the steel superstructure which they are working on," the Evening Press report noted.

Before lunch at the Assembly Rooms the Queen Mother sipped a dry martini while chatting with the Lord Mayor, Alderman Ward. The menu consisted of smoked trout, spring chicken, and strawberries and cream, ending with a serving of the Yorkshire cheese, Wensleydale.

She spent 12 hours in York that day, June 24, meeting many of the craftsmen who had worked on the restoration, and later attended a Mystery Play performance.

The race-loving Queen Mother paid her first visit to the Knavesmire course on May 17, 1961 interrupting a flight from London to Scotland to land at Rufforth and cheer on her horse Bali Ha'i III running in the Yorkshire Cup. He finished last but that did not dampen the Queen Mother's spirits who owned several winners in her lifetime.

PICTURE: Crowds await the Queen Mother during her visit to York in August 1955