13 September 2022

The University’s relationship with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

After 70 years of reign, Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday 8 September 2022. Below, the University recalls its association with Her Majesty the Queen over the past two centuries.

The Queen in Sheffield

On Thursday 8 September, Buckingham Palace announced that the longest reigning monarch in British history died at Balmoral, near Aberdeen, aged 96.

Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926, the Queen came to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25. She reigned through rapidly changing times over the course of seven decades.

The University of Sheffield has long had an association with the Royal Family and over her long tenure as head of state, the Queen visited the University on two occasions. 

In October 1954, the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, paid a royal visit to inaugurate the University’s Jubilee Session, a commemoration of 50 years since the signing of the University Charter.

To mark the occasion, students presented a masque, titled The Birth of Steel. This involved hundreds of participants, including a 66-strong orchestra, brass band and a choir. 

The masque depicted the Queen as the goddess Minerva descending from heaven to show a medieval alchemist how to create a silver sword which led to the birth of modern steel technology, symbolising the city’s renowned steel industry. 

A wide range of members of the University community and its leadership were invited to attend the masque. These included present and retired staff, students, honorary graduates, and other special guests, including the Lord Mayor, the Town Clerk, and the Chief Constable.

The Queen visited again in November 2010 together with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to officially unveil the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). 

This involved a tour of laboratories, offices and library, and the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the opening. They also met with researchers from SITraN and visited a showcase of projects led by our Sheffield Volunteering team at Sheffield Cathedral.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh also toured the AMRC Factory of the Future, viewed research projects, and met with AMRC apprentices.

Between the years of 1998 and 2019, the University of Sheffield has been honoured to receive five Queen’s Anniversary Prizes. The Queen’s Prize is the most distinguished award that can be made to a UK institution for higher or further education, designed to recognise outstanding contributions to the intellectual, economic, cultural and social life of the nation.

This included the AMRC being awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2007, recognising its innovative collaborations between academia and industry. In 2019, SITraN was awarded the prize for research that has improved patient outcomes for people living with some of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases. We were also awarded the prize for pioneering ageing research in 2002. 

In 2000 the award was given to the Sheffield University Waste Incineration Centre, Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group, and the University’s Environmental Consultancy, and in 1998 it was dedicated to the Humanities Research Institute. 

In May of this year, the University planted a field maple, the UK’s only native maple tree, outside Firth Court to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy campaign.

As this field maple continues to remain in the University community over the years to come, so will our collective memory of Queen Elizabeth II.