A Royal Occasion: the Golden Jubilee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

On 28th February 1979 the RCOG inaugurated its Golden Jubilee to mark the College’s 50th anniversary. The Jubilee Year was launched by the College’s Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and we are lucky today to have access to a recording of her inauguration speech.

During the inauguration, the Queen Mother was greeted by then RCOG President Sir Anthony Alment and a selection of College Officers.

The Queen Mother receiving a bouquet of flowers at the inaugeration of the RCOG Golden Jubilee in 1979 (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/10/3)

The College’s Golden Jubilee inauguration welcomed the Queen Mother, photographed greeting Clare Murdoch (daughter of Robin Murdoch, former Vice President of the College) in 1979. The RCOG’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated worldwide among its 6000 strong membership, with meetings, dinners and official visits.

This inauguration marked just one milestone in College’s longstanding relationship with British royalty. From the opening of our original home in Queen Anne Street to the Duchess of Cambridge’s recent visit to the RCOG this week as part of the Best Beginnings event, the RCOG has plenty of practice hosting royal events. This post shares some of our favourite images of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from our photo archive of royal visits.

The Duke and Duchess of York (seated) at the opening of the RCOG’s first home at Queen Anne Street, London in 1932 with RCOG President and co-founder William Blair-Bell (standing) (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/1)
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The Duchess of York about to speak at the opening of the RCOG’s first home at Queen Anne Street, London in 1932 (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/1)

Her husband, King George VI, granted the College its Royal Charter in 1947 which made the RCOG the third royal medical college in the United Kingdom after the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians.

The Queen Mother’s apperance at the opening ceremony was a huge victory for the College’s founders and helped established the fledgling College as a leader in maternal health care.The Duchess had originally been approached to support the College by Sir Henry Simpson, who had attended the Duchess during the births of both her children. Simpson had been a supporter of the College from its early days

This event also marked something of a tradition. The Queen Mother became an Honorary Fellow and patron of the College in 1949 and was followed by both of her daughters who became Honorary Fellows in 1951 and 1952. She also attended the College’s Silver Jubilee in 1954.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother being received by Sir Arthur Gemmell for the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1954 (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/4/2)

The Queen Mother laid the foundation stone of our current building in Sussex Place. The headquarters was specially built for the College on land leased from the Crown Estates. As Queen, she had donated £1000 to the College’s building fund in the 1940s, which helped pay for Sussex Places’ eventual construction.

The Queen Mother laying the foundation stone of the College’s Sussex Place headquarters in 1957 (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/5b)
Queen Mother peers through a microscope in the Pathological Laboratory during her visit to the College on the 13th of December, 1961 (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/7/3)

Above the Queen Mother can be seen peering through a microscope in the pathological laboratories during a visit to the RCOG in 1961; below she can be seen admiring the painting by Terence Cuneo of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II with Fellows, Members, friends of the RCOG and Officers from other Royal Colleges at the opening of 27 Sussex Place a year earlier. The painting is over two metres across and hangs near the main stairs of the College.

The Queen Mother looking at Cuneo’s painting from the top of the main staircase at the College (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/7/1)

The Queen Mother’s younger daughter, Princess Margaret, accepted her Honorary Fellowship of the RCOG five years later.

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Queen Mother and HRH Princess Margaret sitting with Sir Martin Gilliatt, royal aide, on occasion of award of honorary fellowship to HRH Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, to the Honorary Fellowship of the College in June 1966. (Archive reference RCOG/PH5/8/1)

With her death in 2002, the College lost one of its original allies. But her commitment to improving maternal wellbeing carries on through her younger relatives. As well as Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, the RCOG has welcomed Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Diana, Princess of Wales as Honorary Fellows and patrons of its affiliated charities.

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