It was Queen Elizabeth II that bestowed City status on Brighton and Hove in early 2001 and then came to visit shortly after.
On that occasion, the Council records The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met children from Goldstone Junior School, Knoll Infant School, Hill Park School (called Hillside at the time) and Aldrington Church of England Primary School, travelled to the Brighthelm Centre to greet St John’s Ambulance volunteers and Big Issue sellers, as well as meeting Councillors at the Corn Exchange to to mark the City status.
It was a day that perhaps a day that typified the reign of Queen Elizabeth II - busy, active and full of engagements where she no doubt touched hundreds of people’s lives over the course of just a few hours.
Many of our Councillors remember that day fondly; how the Queen had time for everyone in attendance and delighted with her visit, creating a moment of pride for our city. People remember their encounters with the Queen in such detail: Former Councillor Lynda Hyde recalls complimenting the Queen on her pink lilac dress, which made her stand out in the crowd, and how the colour suited her, a remark which brought about the iconic happy smile from the monarch that we will now miss so much.
It was one of many visits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Brighton & Hove over her life that marked many of the chapters of our city’s story.
Her eight visits to Brighton and Hove (spanning eight decades) began before she had been made Queen: As the Council records show, in December 1945 the then Princess Elizabeth reviewed troops at King Alfred, Hove, which was a Royal Navy training site at the time, before visiting Preston Manor in Brighton. Then, in May 1951, Princess Elizabeth visited Brighton & Hove as part of a tour of Sussex, including Brighton Palace Pier, Royal Pavilion and Hove Town Hall, which remains the seat of the City Council today.
After becoming Queen, she visited us in July 1962 to open the George Street Renovation Scheme in Hove and also Brighton College. The Argus chronicled this visit in a recent piece to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, stating that a plaque commemorating that day can still be seen on the outside of the east wall of the Chapel. Two years later in 1964 the Queen was there for us again when she officially opened the main library at the then fledgling University of Sussex.
She was there when Brighton marked a further milestone in its story with the completion of the £50 million Brighton Marina development in 1979, to officially open it. Many residents recall how the Queen strolled through the historic shopping areas after this trip.
After granting a unified Brighton & Hove its City status in 2001, the Queen next visited in 2007, where The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh marked the the 200th anniversary of the Theatre Royal. During the visit, the Queen was shown around Jubilee Library, attended a reception at the Dome followed by lunch at Brighton Racecourse as well as visiting community projects in the afternoon. Cllr Dee Simson recalled lunch with the Queen at the Racecourse on that day having been invited after receiving the Queen’s award for voluntary service. It was a day she will never forget.
During her last to our visit to our city nine years ago in 2013, our Queen opened the Keep, a world-class centre for archives including the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections, based near Falmer. This was to be her final trip to a City to which she gave so much.
During these visits thousands of Brighton & Hove residents will have met the Queen on the streets of Brighton & Hove and will treasure their own personal memories of encountering a figure who has spanned all our lives. Cllr Dawn Barnett was among thousands of Brighton and Hove residents who travelled to mark the beginning of the Queen’s reign at her coronation in 1953, taking the midnight train from Brighton Train Station with her parents, brother and aunt. The words quoted by the Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies about the Queen will ring true for many: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I’ll love her till I die.”
I have always held the Queen in the highest regard and was immensely proud to serve in her name in the Queen’s Regiment of the British Army. Her passing is a moment of great sadness for the nation, but also to Brighton and Hove, the place she unified by making a City, and gave so much to.
God Save The King.
The above article is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II written by Cllr Steve Bell, printed in The Argus on Saturday 10 September 2022.