The Queen and I

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
April 22, 2015

I had the thrill of a lifetime in early April!

Invited to England for a quick trip, I flew from Houston to London on March 30th and checked into the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel in Windsor Tuesday morning.   I took advantage of a little time to refresh before taking the train into London for an interview with BBC Radio, thanks to Molly Hawn.  Intrigued by our Celebrate America! initiative in which we have recorded millions of hours of community service since the administration began in 2013, BBC Radio has shown interest in doing a piece on the DAR and I am excited to see where it goes.  

Katy Hickman, the producer, welcomed me to the BBC Headquarters in London. Following my interview in the studio, Kathy gave me a brief tour of the huge complex in London. I was relieved to find my way back to the Tube and then to the train to Windsor. Walking back to the hotel from the train station in Windsor, I stopped at a nearby restaurant for a traditional British meal.

On Wednesday morning, April 1, I walked the short distance up the hill to Windsor Castle upon the invitation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  Her Majesty has asked King’s College of London to digitize the Royal Archives of King George III which have been stored in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. King George III reigned from 1760-1820 and the archives include over 350,000 pages, the earliest surviving substantial collection of British royal papers, including a large amount on the American Revolution. King’s College of London, founded in 1829 by King George IV, son of King George III, is one of the oldest colleges in London. 

The original Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror.  The Round Tower is the oldest remaining part of the castle, believed to be built upon the site where King Arthur met with the Knights of the Round Table. Containing over 1100 rooms, it is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The Royal Family moved to Windsor Castle during the Siege of London in World War II and now use it primarily on weekends. Regretfully, photographs were not permitted inside but I found a few on the internet to share with you.

Upon arrival at the Henry VIII gates, I was escorted through the long courtyard, into the State Entrance of the castle for a coffee and tea reception in the state rooms above the grand staircase.  The Royal Archivist told me how the Library was threatened during the fire in 1992 and they devised a chute, sending the valuable collection of books down to safety. She was one of the last to leave the castle and grateful that the wind changed directions moments later, saving the Library.  At the conclusion of the reception, we were invited to sign the royal guest book before being led to the Library, overlooking the town of Windsor and Eton, the boy’s boarding school founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.  Among the distinguished alumni of Eton are Princes William and Harry.

In the Library, the guests had an opportunity to view a small sample of the documents prior to the Queen’s arrival.  I was most interested in a letter from George Washington to John Jay in 1781 about the Victory at Yorktown.  The letter was next to a document from Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood to General de Budé, who was aide-de-camp to King George III, about the failure of the English to engage the French at Chesapeake Bay, leading to the Victory at Yorktown.  Displayed nearby was a map by Robert Scot on The Battle of Yorktown, and a letter by the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, describing his visit to New York in 1780. 

Invited to the debut of the presentation to Queen Elizabeth II was a small group of 19, three of whom were from the United States, including a representative from the College of William and Mary, President General Sons of the American Revolution Lindsey Brock and your President General.  Others included the Principal and key staff from Kings College of London, the Director of the British Science Museum, a member of Parliament, the Royal Archivist and the Director of British Libraries.

When the Queen arrived Royal Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine presented each of us to Her Majesty individually. She was most gracious and even more attractive in person than in photographs. Invited to view the documents, she was impressed by the breadth of the collection as well as the samples chosen for this presentation. This ambitious project will not only preserve the documents but will also make them available online for historians and researchers, transforming access to this internationally significant material. Learn more here.

The documents in this collection contain many aspects of eighteenth and early nineteenth century political, social and economic history, both of Britain and the early United States. These themes include:  transatlantic relations before, during and after the American Revolution; agriculture and land in the 18th century; politics and the Court; enlightenment thought and culture; and the history of science and medicine. 

Because of the historical significance of the King George III Archives, BBC TV was filming the presentation for a documentary to air in the fall of 2016.  After the Queen departed the Library, BBC interviewed Lindsey Brock and me together.  Moments later, we were led through the State Apartments Great Hall with portraits of the previous reigning monarchs.  This was my first visit to Windsor Castle and it was as impressive as I imagined it to be.

A delicious buffet lunch was held in the Crimson Drawing Room which overlooks the field in which the Battle of Runnymeade took place 800 years ago this June, leading to the signing of the Magna Carta.  Honestly, I was so in awe of the surroundings, the Queen’s china, silver and crystal and so conscious of using Downton Abbey style posture and table manners, that I  have no idea what was served, only that it was delicious.

Reluctantly leaving the castle, Lindsey and I had a photo together in the courtyard overlooking the Royal Tower.  You can imagine my surprise to learn the British Monarchy tweeted three photographs, including the one of me shaking Her Majesty’s hand!

After enjoying tea at my hotel, I returned to Houston the next day to spend Easter with my family. It was a fast and exciting 48 hours and the memories will last a lifetime!

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