Her Majesty The Queen was our Patron until her death on 8 September 2022. We look back at some of the special visits she made to our theatres and the memories we have of her.

Queen Elizabeth II's relationship with Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare, which began with the gift of a set of Shakespeare volumes which she was given by the town for her 18th birthday.  

1957: Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon

In June 1957, Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh made a special trip to the town. They visited Shakespeare's Birthplace, the Town Hall and attended an anniversary performance of As You Like It, with a cast including Dame Peggy Ashcroft, at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

Queen and Prince Phillip on the balcony of a building with windows
Photo by Tom Holte Theatre Photographic Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

1975: Opening the Centenary Garden

On the afternoon of Friday 27 June 1975, The Queen was in Stratford again; this time to perform the opening ceremony of the theatre’s Centenary Garden 

Two years later, in 1977, the town celebrated her Silver Jubilee with street parties and parades, as they would mark her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022.

The Bancroft gardens with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre behind it. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are walking on the grass accompanied by the town's mayor and a lady in a blue coat
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on the Bancroft Gardens in 1975
The Artist © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

1986: Opening the Swan Theatre

In 1986, The Queen re-opened our much-loved Swan Theatre, which had finally been restored following the fire of 1926. The re-opened auditorium, used as a conference room and rehearsal space for years, was designed around the shell of the original 1875 theatre. 

The Queen visited Stratford-upon-Avon for the official opening ceremony on 13 November 1986. The ceremony was held during the day and in the evening we presented Thomas Heywood's The Fair Maid of the West to an invited audience.

The cast included Pete Postlethwaite, Sean Bean, Imelda Staunton and Simon Russell Beale.

The Queen opens the Swan Theatre_1986_Photo by Joe Cocks_335289
Photo by Joe Cocks © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

Ten years later, in 1996, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh returned to Stratford to unveil the stainless steel swan statue on the Bancroft Garden, and joined in the celebration of the return of swans to the town.

The statue commemorates the 800th anniversary of granting of market rights by King Richard I in 1196. Flowers have been laid at the statue in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at her death.

2011: Opening the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh visited to officially open the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in March, following our three-year construction project. She met several members of the company and took part in a ceremony that included a performance of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

The Queen wearing a pink suit walks through a busy crowd with black cars behind
Queen Elizabeth II reopens the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in March 2011
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC Browse and license our images
The Queen in pink talks to a man, centre, with a beard and a woman, right, with short grey hair
Cicely Berry (right) and Gregory Doran meet the Queen
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC Browse and license our images

Artistic Director Emeritus Gregory Doran was one of many people who met The Queen during her 2011 visit, and greeted her alongside the late Cicely ('Cis') Berry, our renowned Voice Director. 

"I love the photo of Cis grinning at The Queen. Cis was born on 17 May 1926, less than a month after the Queen (21 April 1926). Cis, a confirmed Marxist with quite firm views on the monarchy, wasn't sure what she would say to Her Majesty, so turned the conversation to the proximity of their birthdays, and how they were both still working!"

Actor Minnie Gale, (currently playing Margaret in Richard III) also met Queen Elizabeth and performed as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

Minnie said: "You can’t tell in the picture, but I actually have no shoes on. My two young cousins were regularly getting told off for running around with their shoes off and used this picture of me meeting Her Majesty barefoot as Juliet as an excuse for doing so forever after….so she made a couple of children very happy that day."

Her Majesty the Queen opens the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2011_2011_Photo by Stewart Hemley _c_ RSC_208750
Minnie Gale meeting HRH The Queen in 2011
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC Browse and license our images
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