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Prince Philip at the Library of Congress

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Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, died on Friday at Windsor Castle in England.

Prior to her ascension to the throne, then-Princess Elizabeth and the Duke visited America and made a stop at the Library. Here’s an account of their visit from our Library of Congress Information Bulletin, v.10 n.45, November 5, 1951:

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visiting “Shrine” documents at the Library of Congress, November 1951. Library of Congress Archives

Their Royal Highnesses, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, expressed great pleasure that [the Library of Congress] was included in their tour on Friday, and the Princess was deeply impressed with the fact that so many staff members turned out to greet them. Mr. Clapp conducted the 20-minute tour of [the Library], which included viewing the Main Reading Room from the Gallery and exhibits on the second floor.

In addition to Their Royal Highnesses, the Royal party included the British Ambassador Sir Oliver Franks and Lady Franks, Canadian Ambassador Hume Wrong and Mrs. Wrong, Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester Pearson and Mrs. Pearson, the Princess’ Lady in Waiting, Their Royal Highnesses’ Equerry, the Secretary of the Royal Household, and Mr. John F. Simmons, chief of protocol in the State Department. Official photographers and press representatives also accompanied the party. LC staff members who were presented to the Royal couple were: Messrs. Buck, Mearns, Andreassen, Adkinson, Wagman, Keitt, Fisher, Gilbert, Krould and Webb.

Besides viewing the Main Reading Room and the Shrine documents, the visitors saw the memorabilia of the Presidents, the “Milestones of American Achievement” and other regular LC exhibits, and a special display arranged in their honor, which included: A letter of condolence on the death of President Lincoln from Queen Victoria to Mrs. Lincoln; a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe calling attention to the importance of friendship with Great Britain; a letter in King George V’s handwriting to President Wilson expressing “deep satisfaction” that the two English-speaking nations were working together; and a sketch of the Battle of Trafalgar between Lord Nelson and the combined fleets of France and Spain, with a letter describing the action.

Both the Princess and the Duke expressed keen interest in the exhibits. They had learned the Gettysburg Address and were pleased to see the original; the Princess was particularly interested in Queen Victoria’s letter, asking how LC happened to have it; the Duke studied the sketch of the Battle of Trafalgar; and both of them asked questions about the Shrine documents and the new preservation processes. It is reported that they were still talking about the LC visit and the fact that so many people were there to see them when they went up into the Capitol after seeing the Supreme Court Building.

Our collections include several more images of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth — including a wedding portrait and a Herblock cartoon.

Thanks to Library of Congress archivist Cheryl Fox for finding this account.

Comments (4)

  1. RIP Prince Phillip!
    I met Prince Phillip over 50 years go when he visited Montserrat with Queen Elizabeth. Montserrat is still a colony of Britain and from time to time the Royals visit their colonies to greet their adoring crowds. He had an amazing memory -he met me dressed up as a girl guide and later at a cocktail party he walked up to me and remarked that he had just seen in a Girl Guide uniform. Trained to remember faces that’s why the Royal family is so adored by their subjects – even in a tiny island in the Caribbean, they know how to connect. Later that evening they were late for an event and I over heard him blaming the queen and I thought – just like a man!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed learning about their visit and the memorabilia and items that they viewed. Great memory!

  3. This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse.

  4. Hello! I met Prince Phillip at the Library of Congress /the Great Hall/ in 1997 (or 1998). I believe it was not an official visit and it was completely different time in Washington, DC. About 20 visitors/researchers were at the Hall at that moment. Prince Phillip approached to everyone with his greetings, and when it was my turn I said “How do you do?”, I’m a Russian linguist-researcher, and I’m a lover of English, the Russians love Shakespeare, and I’ve just read that the officials in London consider that the English language is our treasure, our source of wealth, our newest industry of knowledge (the Internet and the WEB). Also, I said that I’m from Saint-Petersburg where in our downtown a special English area – buildings. church, streets – were designed in the XIX century, when anglomania conquered the North Venice (our city).
    He smiled! He said, that we loved Russia and Russians, especially the culture and our historical connections.
    Then he said “do svidaniya” in Russian (goodbye).
    The records of official visits could be found, I guess, by librarians, in order to confirm this visit DC at the end of the XX century.

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