Royal Visits to Charterhouse

To celebrate The Queen's Platinum Jubilee, we look fondly back on Her Majesty's visits to the School. 

Her Majesty The Queen's first official visit was in 1972 and the extract below was written for The Carthusian Magazine in that year:

On Wednesday, November 29, 1972, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visited Charterhouse. Since our foundation the Sovereign has always been our Governor, but Queen Elizabeth II is the first deliberately to visit the School.

Boys, masters, families, matrons, domestic staffs and Maintenance — all of us, in fact — were waiting on Northbrook round the small dais. An absolutely enormous Rolls drew up and, after presentations of the Lord Lieutenant and the Mayor (both of them Old Carthusians), local high-ups and the Governing Body, the Headmaster made a short speech of welcome (58 seconds). Her Majesty replied, and then unveiled the stone, which is inscribed: This Stone was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 29th November 1972.

The Head of the School called for three cheers, and the Royal Party walked off to inspect the plan of the new buildings, chatting on the way with boys, dailies and others. A slight drizzle was falling, and the Headmaster hurried to open the new golf umbrella acquired for the occasion — but was beaten to it by the Private Detective, who was ready with the Queen's.

It had not taken long, yet we were aware that this was a moment of history. The stone is at the base of the tower, at the very centre of the new buildings. Boys will pass it every day and, in two hundred years or so, there it will be, very much as King James's arms are in the courtyard at the Charterhouse.

When the Royal Visit was first planned, Her Majesty had said that what she chiefly wanted to see was the School and the boys: and so indeed she did. From the first moment, she and her husband created an atmosphere of friendly and amused informality which infected everybody and was maintained throughout the afternoon. At each stage of the tour a pair of School Monitors acted as guides, the Headmaster presented the members of Brooke Hall concerned, and the boys did their stuff. We began in Chapel, with the Singapore flag, and walked slowly towards the East end through a superb musical medley (4 minutes) of "The Lark Ascending," "Pilgrim's Progress," "Loch Lomond," "Here's a Health unto Your Majesty." It was professional, humorous and friendly, and it showed what Charterhouse can do. 

Then the Royal Party divided into two groups — The Queen going to see a Boys House and its occupants, and the Duke visiting the Science Departments. In Girdlestoneites, polished and shining for the occasion, great fun was had by all — even those boys, who were theoretically working ("You are only pretending to work, aren't you!").

In the Labs. His Royal Highness, who had three other engagements that day, gave the impression that he was genuinely interested and entertained. There was a very wide variety of displays, the demonstrators contriving explanations which even the Headmaster could follow. At half-time, so to speak, the Duke was given a copy of Mr. Polunin's famous book " The Flowers of Europe." He lingered longer than was planned, being especially interested in our plans for a Nature Reserve, and we were anxious lest the programme had got behind time. However, as the Duke emerged from the Labs., his party converged with that of the Queen, coming from Girdlestoneites. This was held to be a master-stroke of timing — but was, in fact, a pure fluke!

Studio was the next stop. Her Majesty saw the costumes for "Pilgrim's Progress," and discussed the opera for some ten minutes with boys and the producer, Mr. Ford. Then upstairs, where Mr. Dean was having his portrait painted, with varying success, and Mr. Woods presented the Queen with the splendid celadon dish, inscribed "To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from Grateful Carthusians 29.11.72."

From Studio it was a short walk to the Computer Terminal and Maths Club. What seemed like 50 small boys were doing the most elaborate things ("A security nightmare," was the detective's comment). It was hilariously entertaining, especially when the Computer ran out of money. As the final item, the Queen and her husband had tea, in Library, at separate tables, with the School Monitors — the two senior matrons hovering watchfully in the wings.

They drove away in the dark, through a flutter of waving arms, and voices shouting "Good-bye, good-bye." It had been one of those days when the whole community was at its best and its friendliest — a day we shall always remember.

The Headmaster later received the following letter from Sir Martin Charteris, Private Secretary to The Queen:

"When The Queen got back to Buckingham Palace last night (only 20 minutes after the advertised time and after battling with some pretty heavy traffic) Her Majesty told me to write to you to say how greatly she and The Duke of Edinburgh had enjoyed their visit to Charterhouse, and to ask you to let everybody concerned know how impressed she had been with all you, your colleagues, and the boys, had had to show her of the school and its activities. The programme, including as it did a most excellent musical interlude in the Chapel, and visits to a house, the science laboratories, the studio, and the Computer Terminal, and ending off with a splendid tea in the Library, could not have been better devised and executed. The beautiful bowl given to The Queen and the book given to The Duke of Edinburgh, will always remind them of a most happy visit."

The Queen then visited the School again in 1997 for the official opening of the Queen's Sports Centre. The below was written for The Carthusian News Sheet in that year:

The School was honoured to welcome Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, to Charterhouse on 21 February 1997 to inaugurate the new sports centre, henceforth to be known as Queen's Sports Centre. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness attended a service in Chapel and toured the School, viewing some of the facilities built since the previous Royal visit to the School in November 1972 to lay the foundation stone of the new boarding houses. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness were entertained to a private luncheon in Brooke Hall. At Her Majesty's request, the Royal visit was commemorated by an extra day added to Exeat, to be known as Queen's Exeat.