The visit of Elizabeth II in 1965 was not the first visit by a member of the royal family to MGS. In 1920, the then Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII) visited Long Millgate. However, the Queen’s visit was the first at the Rusholme site. It took place on 16th March 1965, and was part of the celebrations for the school’s 450th year.
As would be expected, every aspect of the day had to be planned with minute attention to detail, from catering, invitations and seating, to plans for wet weather and press coverage. There were a number of rehearsals, with different elements of the day practised ahead of time. The day itself presented a busy programme for the Queen, with a celebratory masque, unveiling of the coat of arms in the memorial hall, visits to the art hall, gym, swimming pool and workshops and laying of the foundation stone in the sixth form block.
Numerous reminiscences were included in a bumper edition of Ulula following the visit.
The school captain, Stephen Schaefer, recounted the huge amount of effort had gone into planning the visit:
With a week to go final decisions had only just been made. I spent two complete days planning the movements of the prefects to fit in with the very impressive scheme drawn up by Mr Stone and Mr McCorquodale—my notes covered about twenty-six sides of foolscap. Together with the Vice-Captains, I went over every possible relevant detail (several times) until we knew just where everyone was supposed to be throughout the whole day. We finally emerged ashen and exhausted.
Despite this effort, one first former seemed less than impressed by the day:
On arrival under the marquee we were ushered into our places by some prefects. There we were filmed by the BBC while the ceremony took place. This wasn’t very thrilling and the Queen didn’t even lay the cement. When she blessed the stone there was nothing to be heard as the microphones were badly placed. On our return to Room 12 we had a sandwich lunch while six of our form had a very ordinary three course meal in the Refectory. After lunch we were told to play in Birchfields Park.
One boy shrewdly noted:
It was described as a normal School Dinner; but it did not escape anyone’s notice that there were three courses instead of two and that the efforts of the Kitchen Staff had been very much more extensive than would normally be possible.
However English master Bert Parnaby was suitably awestruck:
By the time Her Majesty took coffee in the Common Room the Staff, like everyone else, was completely starry-eyed. Those of us who were due to be presented had stopped worrying about when to bow and how to say ‘Ma’am’, and were wondering instead about the line the coming conversation was going to take. When it happened it was crystal-clear, unforced and easy. It lasted for three minutes against a blurred background of Common Room green, the jockey colours of academic hoods, and the subdued chink of better china than we were used to: the voice had a crisp, light quality about it; it was not one that I had properly appreciated before, nor is it one 1 am ever likely to hear again in such comparatively intimate circumstances. And, like a lot of children that day, I was thrilled to bits.
Link to the footage: