The University of Leicester joins the nation in mourning the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a visitor to the University on two separate occasions during her 70-year reign.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was born on 21 April 1926 and died on 8 September 2022. The first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, Princess Elizabeth was 10 years old when, in December 1936, her uncle – King Edward VIII – abdicated, leaving her father as King, and making her next in line to the throne.
On 6 February 1952, King George VI died following a prolonged illness and Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II. She ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British history, most recently celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, marking 70 years since she acceded to the throne – the first British Monarch to achieve this milestone.
Her extraordinary reign will be remembered by her sense of duty and devotion to a life of service – an important figurehead for the UK and the Commonwealth during times of enormous social change.
Devoted to her family, Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, later to become The Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. They met at the wedding of Prince Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece to the Duke of Kent – Princess Elizabeth’s uncle – in 1934. They shared four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
In 1957, Her Majesty The Queen granted the University College Leicester the Royal Charter. This gave us the status of a university with the right to award its own degrees, establishing the University of Leicester.
The following year, we were pleased to welcome HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to the University’s campus for the official opening of the new Percy Gee Students’ Union Building. On 9 May 1958, the Royal couple, greeted by then University Chancellor, Lord Adrian, received an enthusiastic welcome by students as they were taken on a short tour of the new building before the official opening ceremony in Queen’s Hall.
Fifty years later, HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh returned to our campus, this time to officially open the state-of-the-art £32 million David Wilson Library. On 4 December 2008, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, escorted by then Chancellor, Sir Peter Williams, and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Robert Burgess, toured the Library, meeting with staff, students and sponsors, before unveiling a plaque and then having lunch at the University’s Beaumont Hall.
The University is also delighted to be one of only a small number of universities to have won the highly prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education on more than one occasion. Celebrating excellence, innovation and public benefit in work carried out by UK colleges and universities, the Prizes are the highest national honour awarded in UK further and higher education, granted by the Queen every two years, and have been awarded to the University three times:
- 1994 for developments in astronomy, space and planetary science
- 2002 for the discovery of genetic fingerprinting
- 2013 for the discovery of King Richard III
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Nishan Canagarajah said: “Our deepest sympathies go to members of the Royal Family and we join the nation in mourning this enormous loss.
“Her Majesty The Queen was monarch for the entire history of the University, since we were granted our Royal Charter in 1957, and her era also spanned the earlier period when we were a University College.
“She was an abiding influence and visited the University on two occasions - to grant our Royal Charter and open the Percy Gee Building, and to open the David Wilson Library. We are indebted to her for her support and for her influence.
“Her memory lives on not simply in the buildings that she opened but in the very purpose of our existence as a University established under her authority. In the year that we celebrated the centenary of our foundation, we give thanks for her role as a defining figure of our time.
“The University will mark her passing in a number of ways out of respect. On behalf of the University community, including staff, students, alumni and supporters, we offer our deepest condolences.”