THE Queen was greeted by thousands of well-wishers as she visited York in a double celebration which marked her 60-year reign and a landmark in the ancient city’s long history.
The monarch chose to come to York for the annual Maundy Thursday service because she wanted to celebrate the city’s 800th anniversary since being given a Royal Charter during the year of her own Diamond Jubilee.
An estimated 15,000 people thronged the city’s streets as the Queen was joined by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their grand-daughter, Princess Beatrice of York, for the historic occasion.
In what was the Queen’s first official visit to Yorkshire during her Diamond Jubilee year, the Royal party arrived at the railway station before taking a short car journey to the city’s traditional entrance, Micklegate Bar.
The historic gateway has been used for Royal visits since 1212 and yesterday’s hugely-anticipated arrival involved a centuries-old tradition during which the Queen officially asked for permission to enter the city.
Wearing an Angela Kelly turquoise and white day dress with turquoise and faun flex and silk covered buttons, with matching coat and hat, the Queen looked radiant in the bright spring sunshine.
The Royal party was driven by the cheering crowds to the steps of York Minster, where the hour-long Maundy service was conducted in front of an 1,800-strong congregation.
The long-running tradition saw the Queen distribute Maundy money to pensioners in recognition of their service to the community and the Church.
The giving of Maundy money can be traced back to the 13th century, when the monarch also handed out food and clothing and even washed the recipients’ feet.
Yesterday’s service, which was held in York Minster, saw 86 women and 86 men – one for each of the Queen’s 86 years – receive the money from the Queen. Alan Thompson, 84, from Scarborough, was one of the recipients, and was accompanied by his wife Nan, also 84, and daughter Linda, 57.
“I don’t know who I was nominated by, but it was a lovely surprise,” he said.
“It was wonderful to meet her and a great privilege.”
The Royal party left the cathedral through the Great West Door and posed for official photographs as the bells of the Minster rang out.
Before getting into her car, the Queen, accompanied by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, spoke to and gathered flowers from some of the crowd, among them Eileen Forth, 66, of Huntington, who was the first to arrive at the Minster at 6.30am with her daughter and grandchildren.
“I have met the Queen before because I have worked on 11 garden parties as a waitress,” she said. “She shook my hand.”
Priya Raman, 38, from Strensall, added: “I wished her a happy Easter and the kids gave her flowers and cards. She thanked us. We have been waiting since seven.”
The Queen was the guest of honour at a civic luncheon at the Lord Mayor’s official residence, the Mansion House, with a menu created from Yorkshire’s finest produce.
The Lord Mayor of York, Coun David Horton, presented the Queen with a traditional gift of chocolates to celebrate the city’s long association with the confectionery industry.
The meal at the Mansion House was, however, not solely reserved for the city’s highest profile figures. The 14 winners of the York Community Pride awards were all invited, along with staff from the council’s five directorates. Representatives from across the ranks of the Army also attended.
The Royal party was then given a tour of an exhibition in the Yorkshire Museum to mark the city’s 800 years. During the tour, Princess Beatrice said she had “thoroughly enjoyed” her first official visit to York, and hinted she may return to the city this summer.
After the visit, Coun Horton said: “It’s been a wonderful day and I thank everyone who was involved in making this so memorable. It was an incredible honour to welcome the Queen and the Royal party to York and we will treasure these memories for years to come.”