When the Queen came to Trinity Hall
Queen Elizabeth II: Former Trinity Hall Master, Professor Peter Clarke, remembers hosting Her Majesty’s visit to the College in 2000.
My wife Maria Tippett and I were installed in the Master’s Lodge at Trinity Hall in the Michaelmas Term of 2000. It had already been arranged that the College would entertain Her Majesty, accompanied by Prince Philip as Chancellor of the University, on a formal visit to Cambridge. It was a rainy day but nothing could dampen our spirits – especially not those of the students who turned out in the courts to welcome Her Majesty. There was a big formal lunch in the Hall, with the Queen naturally as guest of honour by my side at the high table.
I didn’t know what we would find to talk about but I needn’t have worried – she seemed relaxed and convivial. I was relieved to find that the gin and Dubonnet that we had supplied before lunch had met with satisfaction, and her glass was discreetly topped up by an equerry. I am a modern historian by trade and I mentioned that I was currently writing a biography of Sir Stafford Cripps, a major figure in the Labour Party in the 1940s. “Oh yes,” the Queen chipped in: “shall I tell you my Stafford Cripps story?” And so she did – a memory of meeting him over lunch in Buckingham Palace during the Second World War when Cripps was (briefly) considered as a rival to Churchill. So the table talk flowed easily, with an ease and alertness and humour that I had not entirely expected.
After the lunch in Hall was over, we were due to go outside for the formal opening of the Graham Storey Room – recently converted for College use underneath the Old Library. But when the Queen looked out of the window, she saw that it was still raining, so I suggested that we keep indoors. “Oh no,” she said at once, “I can see the students waiting outside in the court.” So we put up the umbrellas and braved the shower – and consequently a lot more Tit Hall students met this indomitable historical personage, still with over twenty years ahead to reign over us herself.