Toasts to a royal date that will live long in memory

The Queen greets well wishers outside York Minster
The Queen greets well wishers outside York Minster
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IT HAD taken six months of painstaking planning to organise the visit, but the broad smile across the Queen’s face was a clear indication that it had been worth the effort.

York was consumed with a festive atmosphere yesterday as the Queen was joined by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their grand-daughter, Princess Beatrice of York, for the Maundy Thursday visit to the city.

The Queen waves to the crowd alongside the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

The Queen waves to the crowd alongside the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets around York Minster in bright spring sunshine to catch a glimpse of the Royal party.

Barriers and windows were draped with Union Flags as crowds of people from as far afield as Scandinavia, Asia and the United States started gathering at 6.30am.

An estimated 15,000 people thronged the city’s streets, at various locations, during the day.

The Royal party was not due at the city’s traditional entrance for Royal visits, Micklegate Bar, until shortly before 11am, but the atmosphere had started to build several hours in advance.

Among the most eye-catching of the Royal fans was teacher Louise Robson, 32, of South Bank in York, who was wearing a Union Flag hat made by Quinnell-Hill Miliners originally made for the Royal wedding last summer.

She said: “I love the Queen. I have seen her a couple of times before. I was here in 2000 when she came to York.”

Jo Jones, 39, from Huntington, was waiting to see the Royal visitors with her children Sam, nine, and Annie, six.

She said: “We thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a memory for the kids and I have never seen the Queen before.”

Senior officials at York Council sent a formal request to Buckingham Palace at the start of last year to try and secure a high profile visit.

The authority had made the request while highlighting its plans to mark the city’s 800th anniversary since being granted a Royal Charter by King John in 1212. The council began planning the visit six months ago after receiving official confirmation that the Queen would travel to York for the Maundy Thursday service.

It was announced in January that the Queen would be in York Minster on April 5 to perform the annual traditional of handing out Maundy money – prompting many of the well-wishers to book a date in their diary there and then.

During the Royal visit yesterday, the levels of anticipation gradually built as a ripple of excitement passed through the crowds with news that the Queen had arrived at the city’s railway station.

Outside York Minster, where the Maundy Thursday service was held, the anticipation erupted into loud cheers as the Royal party and dignitaries passed by in a cavalcade of cars.

People could be seen toasting the royal party with champagne in windows overlooking the street.

“I can’t believe how well he looks!” exclaimed one member of the crowd, in reference to Prince Philip’s recent health problems after the 90-year-old had treatment for a blocked coronary artery at Christmas.

Eric and Shannon Pountney, aged eight and 10, from Wiltshire, had waited several hours to see the Queen, but maintained their dawn start had been worth the effort.

“We gave her some flowers and she said ‘thank you’,” said Shannon.

Both children said they were thrilled at their Royal encounter, which came as an added bonus during a visit to grandmother Eileen Forth, from York.

Another youngster in the crowds was Venus Scholes, six, from York, who waved a hand-painted flag that she had spent the previous evening making.