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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

Royal visit 1961

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

The Queen is on a path next to a lawn and is accompanied by a man in clerical dress. Following further behind and still on the lawn are a woman and another priest and some other men. A white building is visible in background.
Queen Elizabeth II visiting Beaumont College

Queen Elizabeth II's recent Platinum Jubilee prompted us to take a look into the British Jesuit Archives to see if we had any material relating to her Majesty. We found photographs and other material from a visit of the Queen to Beaumont College on 15 May 1961. This visit was the highlight of the centenary celebrations of Beaumont College, a Jesuit School based near Windsor Great Park, founded by the Jesuits in 1861. According to a report of the visit (PQ/3) this was a historic moment:

...if we except the visit of James II to the short-lived Jesuit school in the Savoy, this is the first visit by a reigning monarch in England to a Catholic school since the Reformation. *

(* Edited in September 2022 to add: this is not true as Queen Victoria visited Beaumont at least twice in 1884 and 1897)

The whole school was outside to welcome her arrival "exactly at 2:30pm". The Rector was presented to the Queen and he in turn presented some of the senior members of the community and lay staff. She was then shown some books of interest in the library before she made her way across the lawn to the War Memorial, where a small dais and chair had been prepared. After the boys had sung the National Anthem, the Captain of the School read an address of welcome. Then four newly qualified Queen's Scouts were given their certificates, after which the playroom captains presented presents for the royal children (a tennis racquet and St Christopher badge for a car, a transistor radio and an abacus).

Following the presentations the Queen then planted a tulip tree before getting a tour of the school during which she saw different activities and societies of the school including listening to several of the speakers in a Speakeasy debate and watching a few minutes of a cricket match before returning for tea in the guest room. The care taken to make this a memorable day is evident in the typed notes for staff listing the itinerary for the day which state "All must then leave the lawns so that Her Majesty may take tea in peace."

A man in a suit holds a sapling tree in a hole. The Queen with a spade in her hands is putting soil in the hole. Two men in clerical dress stand to the side. In background there is a memorial and people lined up watching.
Queen Elizabeth II planting a tree

The whole school was assembled again for her departure and sang 'Domine, salvam fac'. The Rector then announced a week's holiday by command of the Queen to which there were great cheers which lasted until the royal cars had passed from site. The report on the day concluded:

It was a memorable occasion. The weather could have been better, -it was fine, but overcast and cold, -but the Queen appeared to be pleased with the arrangements.

The planning that goes into such an event as a royal visit is evident from the documents that have been kept such as the typed instructions for staff referred to above. In particular the below note with wet weather contingency plans with the hope "quod Deus avertat" and the final phrase "Be ready for anything!" shows the careful planning for all eventualities required.

Typed sheet with crease in paper. Heading states If wet (quod Deus avertat). The document is entirely in capital letters.
'If wet' contingency plan

If you are interested in this collection about the Queen's visit to Beaumont and the centenary celebrations for the College, or indeed anything else in the British Jesuit Archives, please get in touch with us using the Contact form, or send an email to

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