Historian captures Queen Elizabeth II’s Exeter legacy in new book

Queen Elizabeth visits Exeter

The Queen visiting Stoke Hill in 1949

The legacy of Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to the City of Exeter has been enshrined in a new book by a renowned Devon historian.

Queen Elizabeth II in Exeter commemorates the late monarch’s unprecedented 11 visits to the city, more than any previous King or Queen in 500 years.

Written by Dr Todd Gray MBE, Honorary Research Fellow at the University, the book recalls each visit that took place between 1946 and 2012 and features 46 photographs from the time.

“I have written a dozen books on Exeter but this one is different in how personal the subject is for many Exonians,” says Dr Gray. “I was struck by the outpouring of affection to the memory of the Queen. It was important to me that this sense of regard and loss was recorded, and it is encouraging to me as a writer to see this has been confirmed by the reaction to the book.”

Queen Elizabeth II first visited Exeter in 1946 to witness the scale of the devastation that had been caused to the city centre by the Blitz in World War II. During the two-day visit, the then 20-year-old monarch praised the spirit of the people and toured a local hospital and barracks.

Three years later, she returned for the opening of Princesshay, and in 1956, on her third visit, she awarded the University its Royal Charter.

Her Majesty visited the University again in 1995 – her seventh trip to the city – when she toured what would soon become the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on the Streatham Campus. Her final visit, in 2012, saw her formally open the Forum.

“The eleven visits made by HM Elizabeth II were more than all of her predecessors’ over the previous 500 years,” Dr Gray said. “Until her reign it was unusual for Kings or Queens to criss-cross the country – she was the first to truly see (and know) the entirety of her realm.”

Dr Gray, who has written several dozen books on a broad range of historical topics relating to Devon, began researching this latest study around a decade ago, examining the itinerary and reason for each trip.

“The response of the general public to the death and funeral made me feel it was important to mark this moment in time,” he added. “And there are historical echoes with the death of Victoria in 1903, in the way many people reflected upon the fact they had only known one female monarch and questioned when it would happen again.”

The 68-page book, published by Stevensbooks, was launched at a special lecture at Exeter’s historic Guildhall, and contains a foreword by Cllr Yolonda Henson, the Lord Mayor of the city.

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