Caribbean charm: The Queen and Princess Margaret in Mustique in 1977
No one has ever attempted to tot up all the miles but it must run into the millions. The Queen has certainly travelled further than all of her predecessors put together.
This is, in part, down to technology. She has been fortunate to have reigned in the age of the jet engine, although she was globetrotting by sea long before long-haul flights. It is also, in part, down to politics.
She has reigned through an era of world peace which has not only made travel a good deal safer and easier than it was for her predecessors. It has also made it important for her to maintain existing friendships and alliances by a steady round of state visits and tours.
The other key factor has been her robust health. She has, on the whole, been a good traveller.
From her very first overseas tour, to South Africa in 1947, to her last foray abroad, to Malta in 2015, she has stuck to certain rules. She has always avoided shellfish (too risky) and stringy pasta (too messy).
She has always been accompanied by a ready supply of Malvern water (to be on the safe side) and the red boxes have never been far behind. When possible, she has also preferred to avoid helicopters (ever since a senior aide was killed in one).
She has never had to worry about the more irksome travel problems faced by the rest of us. No flight or train was ever going to leave without her. Her luggage has never ended up in Miami when it was supposed to be in Manchester. However, on the debit side, she has never been able to go anywhere on a whim; or to tear up her plans at the last minute and head for the beach. As for blending in with the locals, forget it.
However, one thing has always been true. When the Queen has been somewhere, her hosts have always wanted to show her the very best of what they have to offer.
So, as we mark the Platinum Jubilee of the most widely-travelled head of state on Earth, let’s celebrate all the places she has been to along the way.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Malta in 1949. ‘[The Queen] has never had to worry about the more irksome travel problems faced by the rest of us,’ says Robert Hardman. ‘No flight or train was ever going to leave without her’
1950s: NEWLY CROWNED
With King George VI laid low through illness, Princess Elizabeth and her husband were expected to travel the world on his behalf. In 1951, they made their first trans-Atlantic tour of North America, crossing Canada coast to coast in a special train.
They had a go at square-dancing (providing a rare picture of Prince Philip in jeans) and went for a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. In the U.S., the future Queen paid her first visit to the White House as a guest of President Truman.
At the start of 1952, the Princess and the Duke of Edinburgh had to leave Prince Charles and Princess Anne behind once again as they set off round the world for Australia, on behalf of the King. Their first major stop was Kenya where they travelled from Nairobi to Nyeri to view Sagana Lodge, a wedding present from the Kenyan government.
While there, they spent a magical night in a giant treehouse in the Aberdare National Park, inspecting wildlife. During the course of that night, the sudden death of the King meant that, when the Princess came down from the tree, she was Queen.
Once the Coronation was over, it was time to start replanning that round-the-world tour. This time, the royal couple would travel in the opposite direction, via Bermuda and Jamaica and then by ship through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. After stops in Fiji and Tonga, the Queen arrived in New Zealand in time for Christmas. Her arrival in Australia drew the largest crowds in the country’s entire history, as she visited everywhere from Bondi Beach to the Outback.
The Queen is pictured here in Brisbane, Australia, in 1977 during her Silver Jubilee celebrations
The tour returned via Ceylon and then the Mediterranean where, in Libya, the couple were introduced to a new mode of transport. The newly-completed Royal Yacht sailed out to meet them — carrying their children —and they all sailed home together.
In 1955, the Queen made her first state visit to Norway followed, a year later, by one to Sweden. In 1957, she made two particularly significant state visits to key allies. In the aftermath of the Suez debacle, she travelled to France. In Paris, a dinner at the Louvre was enlivened when the Queen revealed that she had never seen the Mona Lisa.
Moments later, two workmen appeared and leaned it next to a chair. On a trip to the U.S., meanwhile, she had her first glimpse of a supermarket — and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.
HOW TO DO IT: Sixteen-day coast-to-coast train holidays in Canada from £4,695 pp with hotels and flights (greatrail.com). Thirteen-day ‘East Africa Safari Tours’ from £7,499 pp with hotels and flights (hayesandjarvis.co.uk). Four-night breaks in Washington DC with hotel and flights from £843 pp (virginholidays.co.uk).
1960s: AN EPIC DECADE
Having avoided travel while she was expecting Prince Andrew, the Queen embarked on a series of epic Commonwealth tours in 1961, starting in India.
Millions turned out to greet her in Delhi, while she arrived in Jaipur by elephant and viewed the Taj Mahal by moonlight.
There was polo in Pakistan and a tiger hunt laid on by the King of Nepal (the Duke of Edinburgh developed a mysterious infection on his trigger finger which conveniently prevented him from shooting). Her final stop was to stay with the Shah of Iran. Later in the year, her African tour was best remembered for the sight of the Queen dancing with the new president of republican Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah.
Her 1965 state visit to Germany was seen as a vital step in securing a new post-war friendship. Arriving at the Schloss Bruhl, near Cologne, she wowed her hosts by wearing a dress which matched the decor of the castle. The next year saw her first full tour of the Caribbean where Jamaica was holding the Commonwealth Games.
By the end of the decade, the Queen became the first reigning monarch to tour South America. Her visits to Brazil and Chile coincided with the very first royal TV documentary. Filmed in colour, Royal Family showed her sailing into Rio in the Royal Yacht and receiving a ticker-tape welcome on the Copacabana.
HOW TO DO IT: Eleven-day tours of India covering the Taj Mahal and Jaipur from £2,770 pp including hotels and flights (audleytravel.com). Thirteen-day guided tours of Ghana from £2,840 pp, excluding flights (responsibletravel.com).
1970s: FAR FLUNG
The Queen meets Maoris while on tour in New Zealand in her Silver Jubilee year
The Queen during a walkabout in Muscat during a state visit to Oman in March 1979
There were plenty of trips to Australia and New Zealand all through the decade, not least to open the new Sydney Opera House in 1973. By now, jet travel had made long-distance trips easier.
In 1972, the Queen made her first visit to a communist country when she stayed with President Tito of Yugoslavia. Huge crowds in Belgrade and Zagreb were followed by a visit to his holiday home on the Brioni Islands. In the same year, she returned to France where she heralded Britain’s entry to the EEC, visited Provence and saw her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, for the last time.
Landmark visits to Mexico and Japan were followed by exuberant scenes as the Queen toured the U.S. to celebrate 200 years since gaining independence from Britain. Weeks later, she was in Montreal to open the Olympic Games at which Princess Anne was part of the British equestrian team.
As well as another Caribbean tour including her first visit to Mustique, the Queen became the first female head of state to visit Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, in 1979. In Dubai, she opened what was then the tallest building in the Middle East, the 39-storey World Trade Centre. She also embarked on her first major Africa tour.
HOW TO DO IT: Fourteen-day trips to Sydney and around New South Wales from £1,899 pp with flights and hotels (travelbag.co.uk). Six nights in Dubai from £1,001 pp half-board with hotels and flights (travelrepublic.co.uk). Seven nights’ B&B at The Cotton House in Mustique, including flights, from £5,400 pp (elegantresorts.co.uk). Thirteen-night ‘Japan Unmasked’ tours from £2,610 pp with hotels, excluding flights (insidejapantours.com).
1980s: AMERICA BOUND
The Queen is pictured here arriving in Shanghai on October 12, 1986, during an official state visit to China
The decade began with a ground-breaking tour of French-speaking North Africa, including Tunisia and Algeria. It descended into farce when she arrived in Morocco. The paranoid King Hassan II insisted on altering the schedule all the time for fear of assassination.
On a trip to Marrakesh, the Queen spent most of the day waiting for lunch and a dusty horse display at the King’s desert encampment. She never reached Marrakesh. Even monarchs have dreams and bucket lists. In 1983, the Queen finally fulfilled a lifelong ambition when she visited Hollywood and met the stars as a guest of President Reagan.
This was the prelude to a series of visits to visit racehorses, ranches and studs in Kentucky and Wyoming.
The Queen in Shanghai on October 15, 1986, with Michael Shea, her press secretary (grey hair on the right), accompanying her. The yellow-and-blue dress with matching hat was by fashion designer Ian Thomas
Her visit to the 1983 Commonwealth summit in India saw a memorable meeting with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Three years later, one of the most spectacular tours of the entire reign brought the Queen to China. Britannia sailed in to Shanghai, the Queen and the Duke walked along the Great Wall and also met the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an.
HOW TO DO IT: Week-long ‘Discover Morocco’ tours from £1,640 pp with hotels and flights (abercrombiekent.co.uk). Seven nights in Los Angeles with hotels and flights from £1,092 pp (thomascook.com). Sixteen-day ‘Wonders of China’ tours from £3,340 pp with hotels and flights (wendywutours.co.uk).
1990s: EUROPE REVOLUTION
In 1991, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, the Queen visited Washington to stay with President George Bush before heading south to Florida, and then going west to Texas.
One of the greatest moments in post-War history, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, led to a complete change of scene for the Queen. With Eastern Europe now opening up to Western visitors, she could look behind the old Iron Curtain.
There were lively visits to the former East Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. But the most eye-catching of them all was the Queen’s 1994 state visit to Russia where she went on a walkabout in Red Square. Unfortunately, Russian security had removed the public. In St Petersburg, she entertained President Boris Yeltsin to dinner on her yacht.
That same year, she enjoyed her last old-style tour of the Caribbean as she visited Jamaica, Belize and the Cayman Islands in Britannia.
There were visits to France, including one to open the Channel Tunnel and another to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Most poignant of all was the Queen’s return to South Africa, in Britannia, for the first time since her visit as a young Princess.
Waiting on the quayside was a man who would become a dear friend, newly-elected President Nelson Mandela.
Come 1997, it was time to say farewell to her yacht. Britannia had logged more than a million miles at sea before finally being decommissioned after the handover of Hong Kong.
There were further trips through Africa, including one to the newest member of the Commonwealth, Mozambique.
HOW TO DO IT: One-month continuous rail pass for travel in 33 countries in Europe for a tour of Eastern Europe from £563pp (myinterrail.co.uk). Seven nights at Grand Caymanian Resort on Seven Mile Beach in the Cayman Islands from £1,510 pp with flights (britishairways.com). Twelve-night Texas fly-drive holidays with flights, hotels and rental car from £2,099pp (americansky.co.uk).
2000s: OFF TO OZ
The Queen exchanges presents with Pope John Paul II during an audience at the Vatican in Rome on Tuesday, October 17, 2000. Dressed in black and wearing a veil, the Queen was greeted by the 80-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the door of his study. During a private meeting lasting 20 minutes, they are thought to have discussed progress towards Christian unity and the troubles in Northern Ireland
In 2000, the Queen was in Italy where she not only saw the sights of Rome once again but also visited Milan. At a reception the grandees of the fashion industry saluted her style.
It was also time for her to return to Australia, having recently been re-endorsed as head of state in the 1999 referendum. She unveiled the new Olympic stadium built for the 2000 Sydney Games and travelled to the Outback once again.
During her 2002 Golden Jubilee, she covered most of her Commonwealth realms yet again. During a power cut in Jamaica, enterprising staff kept the state banquet illuminated using the headlights from their cars.
Amazingly, it had taken until 2011 — and the age of 85 — before the Queen was finally allowed to visit her closest neighbour. Her four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland remains one of the highlights of the reign with trips to Croke Park, Guinness’s HQ, a racing stud and the food stalls of Cork’s English Market
There were still parts of the world she had never seen and, in 2006, she paid her first state visits to the young Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
In 2007, she paid her last state visit to the U.S., travelling to Virginia and the Kentucky Derby before being welcomed to the White House by George W. Bush.
HOW TO DO IT: Four-night ‘La Scala’ tours of Milan with hotels, flights, meals and tickets to the opera from £1,790pp (kirkerholidays.com). Flights to Rome from £130 pp (ryanair.com). Nineteen-day escorted ‘Highlights of Australia’ tours from £4,899pp with flights and hotels (titantravel.co.uk).
2010s: WINDING DOWN
Gradually, the Queen was starting to cut back on long-haul travel. Her visit to the 2011 Commonwealth summit in Western Australia would be her last Down Under. It concluded with a huge community barbecue in Perth.
Her 2010 tours of Abu Dhabi and Dubai were followed by her visit to the Sultan of Oman who laid on a colossal display of horses and camels, including the world’s only camel-mounted bagpipe band.
Amazingly, it had taken until 2011 — and the age of 85 — before the Queen was finally allowed to visit her closest neighbour. Her four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland remains one of the highlights of the reign with trips to Croke Park, Guinness’s HQ, a racing stud and the food stalls of Cork’s English Market.
For her state banquet at Dublin Castle, she not only spoke in Gaelic but had 1,081 shamrocks hand-stitched into her ballgown.
She started to make shorter state visits, including two in a day in 2014 to meet the Pope and the President of Italy.
Amazingly, it had taken until 2011 — and the age of 85 — before the Queen was finally allowed to visit her closest neighbour. Her four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland remains one of the highlights of the reign with trips to Croke Park, Guinness’s HQ (above), a racing stud and the food stalls of Cork’s English Market
On her 2014 state visit to France, she had a Parisian flower market named after her. The following year, huge crowds turned out to see her in Germany.
Later in 2015, she made what, to date, has been her final trip overseas when she attended the Commonwealth summit in the place that meant so much to her all those years before — Malta.
However, no one has championed the staycation quite like our monarch. For the Queen, there is still only one true holiday destination: the Highlands.
HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal from £1,216pp (travelsupermarket.com). Seven-day ‘Best of Scottish Highlands’ tours from £784 pp including hotels, excursions, meals and flights (newmarketholidays.co.uk). Seven nights at the Kempinski Hotel Muscat in Oman from £1,781 pp half-board with flights (kuoni.co.uk).
Queen Of Our Times — The Life of Elizabeth II by Robert Hardman is published by Macmillan.