Many LSE alumni and staff have fond memories of eagerly anticipated royal visits to LSE through the years. Here we journey through time from 1920 to meet the members of the royal family who have visited our campus and met our community. Dating from 1939, however, one of the most famous royal connections is not a visit but a poem.
The bells of St Clement Danes began to ring as, on 28 May 1920, King George V and Queen Mary arrived at LSE. A ceremonial dais had been raised on Houghton Street with room for 700 guests. The royal carriage stopped on Clare Market and the party entered Passmore Edwards Hall. They were here to lay foundation stone of LSE’s newest building – known today as the Old Building.
Perhaps the most enduring royal connection dates from Christmas Eve 1939. In King George VI’s radio broadcast he recited the preamble of “God Only Knows”, a poem by LSE academic Minnie Haskins. Her poignant lines resonated with a country on the brink of war. The poem began:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
The poem has since been used at the funeral of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.
The star guest of the the Banqueting House concert in aid of the Library Appeal was Her Majesty The Queen Mother. In her capacity as Chancellor of the University of London (1955-81), which LSE had joined in 1900, she not only attended this LSE fundraising event hosted by Lionel Robbins on 19 February 1974, pictured below, but also featured in international publicity material for the Library Appeal. Lionel Robbins’ aim was to purchase Strand House at 10 Portugal St, then headquarters and warehouse for W H Smith, and convert it into a space for the Library. The Appeal was successful and the Library opened in 1978. Robbins’ hard work was recognised when the building was named him. The Queen Mother returned to formally open the building in 1979.
Having been made an LSE Honorary Fellow in 1981, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother returned to LSE on 3 June 1982 to attend the Honorary Fellows dinner. This would have been shortly after the end of her tenure as Chancellor of the University of London. Big LSE names of the time – Lord Dahrendorf, Kit Russell, Huw Wheldon, Anne Bohm – were in attendance. Photographs show her meeting students and staff.
HRH Princess Anne The Princess Royal took on the role of Chancellor of the University of London in 1981 and remains in post to this day. She first visited campus in this capacity on 8 May 1986, which included a boat journey along the Thames to the newest LSE development – the halls of residence at Butler’s Wharf. One of the photographs from the day shows Princess Anne meeting a group of LSE students that includes Minouche Shafik, now Director of LSE.
The Library once again proved a draw when, over 20 years after it had been opened by her mother, HRH Princess Anne the Princes Royal returned to LSE on 27 November 2001 to officially open the Library again, following its redevelopment.
Local school children gathered to watch Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip open LSE’s New Academic Building on Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Many members of the LSE community today will remember the Queen’s visit, asking during a discussion of the credit crunch, “how come nobody could foresee it?”. This precipitated a letter from 10 eminent economists explaining the timing, extent and severity of the crisis.
HRH The Duke of York visited LSE twice in this year, in both March and November 2010. The visit on 26 March was in his capacity as the UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, where he delivered a speech at a plenary session of the LSE Asia Forum.
HRH The Princess Royal returned for the third time to open our building at 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 29 April 2013. As well as LSE students, she met then LSE Director Craig Calhoun, Chair Peter Sutherland, staff from the Department of Economics, Centre for Macroeconomics and the International Growth Centre at LSE, and recent Nobel Prize winner Professor Christopher Pissarides. There is a striking change in student study rooms since her visit in 1986!
A building opening with a difference took place in 2018 as LSE marked 100 years since the extension of suffrage in Britain, when the first women won the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Formerly known as “The Towers”, three LSE buildings on Clement’s Inn are on the site of the London headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union. HRH The Countess of Wessex visited campus for the renaming of these buildings in honour of suffrage campaigners Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Emmeline Pethick-Laurence. There, she met the LSESU Women in Politics Society, who recreated a suffrage march through campus, before attending a reception in the Old Building with speakers Julia Black, Helen Pankhurst and Caroline Criado Perez. Renaming the buildings to mark this link is also a nod to the wider heritage of the suffrage movement in the history of the places around campus and in The Women’s Library at LSE.
Startling research findings on inadequate support for early years care and education costs brought the now Princess of Wales, then HRH The Duchess of Cambridge to LSE in 2021. The Big Change Starts Small report, marking the launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, was the outcome of a collaboration between The Royal Foundation, the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre at LSE and The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. It underlined the critical lifelong impact of the early years on individuals, our economy and society at large. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge joined LSE’s Professor Martin Knapp and other leading academics and practitioners from the UK and beyond, at a roundtable discussion to mark the launch of the report at LSE on Friday 18 June 2021.