Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch who held the throne for 70 years, died Thursday at the age of 96.
The queen visited the University of Virginia in 1976 as part of a multi-city tour to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial. On July 10 of that year, the queen’s plane landed at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport as 50,000 people lined U.S. 29 to see the motorcade travel to the University.
She strolled the Lawn while 18,000 people crowded onto Grounds to witness the event. In the Dome Room of the Rotunda, then-Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin hosted a luncheon in the queen’s honor.
UVA History and Protocol Officer Sandy Gilliam chaired the planning committee for the queen’s historic visit. He remembers people flocking to the Lawn just after sunrise, hours before the queen’s scheduled 10 a.m. arrival. While the event lasted just a few hours, Gilliam said many days of planning, preparation and practice preceded it.
“I got fairly close with the queen’s private secretary and a young guy from the British Embassy that was assigned,” he recalled. “He would come and spend several nights at our house because we were having rehearsals and that sort of thing.”
Gilliam received a signed photograph of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, given to a few of the people instrumental to the event.
The bicentennial visit was one of the queen’s four visits to Virginia. From the University archives, here are some photographs of the queen’s visit 46 years ago.