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Leicester Special Collections

Sylvia Dowling and the Queen's Visit

While Waiting To See the Queen

Students waiting to see the Queen

Seeing the Queen

The Queen with Lord Adrian

The Queen Meets Students

The Queen meeting students

11 May 1958

The Queen arrived at Leicester Town Hall to meet the mayor, greeted by crowds of locals who have dressed up and made banners to welcome the royal couple. The group made their way through the city to the university, where the Queen was met by the Chancellor, Edgar Adrian. The pair toured the campus, greeting students and faculty in their departments before the whole party moved to the Percy Gee building. Here, Her Majesty ended the visit with an opening address in the room now known as ‘Queen’s Hall’, officially opening the space to students for generations to come.

Sylvia writes that she waited anxiously to see the Queen, who was visiting the University of Leicester to open the new Percy Gee Building, and worries if she'll be able to get a good view of her. To Sylvia's relief, she sees that the Queen is walking on her side of the road!

Sylvia is very observant of the Queen's wardrobe. She notes that the Queen is wearing olive-green, and is particularly attentive to the Queen's hat, writing: "I can't say I liked her hat. For the rest, she looked like her photographs."

The Queen has since returned on multiple occasions, alongside other members of the royal family, to open buildings and support the student community. These have included the presentation of a US airman’s boot to the Duke of Edinburgh by the Yeti Club shortly after this visit! While, more than 60 years has passed since Dowling watched the royal visitors arrive, the excitement she describes has persisted in each subsequent visit. Crowds of students, breathlessly waiting behind barriers and staff in ceremonial robes have become an expected and timeless sight for such momentous occasions.