South East Wales

Diamond Jubilee: The Queen's bond with 'remarkable' Welsh

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth said she was 'always glad of an opportunity to visit Wales'.

The Queen's history with south east Wales runs deep.

From her first visit as a 17-year-old princess on her first civil tour of the UK, and a year later to meet the Girl Guides of Wales, and several times after that.

The Queen has admired and paid tribute to Wales' "remarkable spirit" and "undimmed optimism".

She has shared the "joys and sadnesses" and her lasting bond with the community of Aberfan is proof of that.

During a televised visit in 1946, Princess Elizabeth, then 20, became an honorary bard - Elizabeth O Windsor - at the eisteddfod in Mountain Ash.

Two years later and after marrying Prince Philip of Greece, the future Queen was given the freedom of the city of Cardiff.

'Special pleasure'

She called it a "special pleasure" and added: "I am always glad of an opportunity to visit Wales."

Princess Elizabeth told the waiting crowd about the pride she had felt in the Welsh history of the monarchy.

Yet when the Queen made her first visit to Wales after her accession to the throne in June 1952, excitement in Wales grew.

The summer coronation tour took her from Newport to Cardiff and up to Pontypridd and the Valleys. She drew large crowds.

Children in Aberfan waiting for the Queen's arrival
Children in Aberfan waiting for the Queen's recent arrival on the second day of her visit to south Wales

Queen Elizabeth made history in 1960 when she became the first reigning monarch to visit the National Eisteddfod. She was joined by a young Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne.

According to the Western Mail on Saturday, August 6, 1960, "thousands" of people were chanting "we want the Queen" as they waited at Cardiff Docks.

The paper added: "Police estimated that there were more than 12,000 men, women and children on the wharf alongside the brilliantly-lit Royal yacht Britannia."

The Queen also visited Llandaff Cathedral and rededicated the building following its extensive reconstruction from air raid damage sustained in 1941.

The visits to Wales continued.

On Friday, October 21 1966, when tragedy struck in Aberfan the Queen's relationship with Wales grew deeper.

Regret

A total of 144 people, including 116 children, died when a coal waste tip slid down a mountain and engulfed a school and surrounding houses.

The disaster all but wiped out an entire generation of the community's school children.

The Queen travelled to the village a week later.

Her four visits since then have long been taken as a sign of her unflinching support for Aberfan.

During her recent Jubilee Tour, the Queen and Prince Phillip met survivors as well as parents bereaved in the tragedy nearly 46 years ago.

During the 1960s, the Queen paid another visit to Cardiff and in 1968 she officially opened the Royal Mint in Llantrisant.

The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 was an opportunity for hundreds of street parties across south Wales. In keeping with tradition, beacons were lit as a mark of celebration.

In the 1980s she visited at least five times, and similarly in the 1990s.

May 1999 was a historic moment, when the Queen opened the National Assembly of Wales, Cardiff. She said it showed "a new and significant direction in the way Wales is governed".

The Queen has returned to Cardiff on many occasions. She has watched the rugby; met Sir Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey at Cardiff Castle and Charlotte Church at the Millennium Stadium.

She also opened of the historic new chamber in 2006 and told assembly members devolution had created a system "more accountable to the electorate".

The Queen has visited Royal Welsh shows; met Welsh soldiers and toured the country for three days as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.

In April this year, the Queen returned to south Wales once again, this time to mark her Diamond Jubilee, and was greeted by thousands of well-wishers.

She and Prince Phillip, now aged 90, travelled to Llandaff; Margam Park; Merthyr; Aberfan; Ebbw Vale and Glanusk Park near Crickhowell over two days.

The Queen told the crowd in Ebbw Vale: "My family has been coming here since the height of the valleys' industrial might.

"After the closure of the steel works a decade ago, we have admired the fortitude and resilience of Ebbw Vale as you have tackled the social and economic struggle that followed.

"Prince Philip and I have shared many of the joys and sadnesses of the Welsh people in that time and have always been struck by your sense of pride and your undimmed optimism.

"That remarkable spirit of Wales has been very evident in this valley today."

To mark the Queen's 60 year reign on June 5, 190 beacons across Wales will be lit.

Beacons on Penarth cliffs in the Vale of Glamorgan; in Newport, and on Pen y Fan will join a network of more than 2,000 across the UK.

And this jubilee is even more significant because the Queen will become only the second monarch in British history to celebrate 60 years on the throne.

The only other monarch to reign for this long was Queen Victoria, who was on the throne from 1837 to 1901 and reigned for 63 years.

See all the latest Diamond Jubilee news and features at bbc.co.uk/diamondjubilee

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