The queen on the bridge of aspiration

The Queen’s patronage of the School

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations will commence over the upcoming bank holiday weekend. We are one of The Queen’s charities and are honoured to have a close association and history with the Royal Family.

A Royal Charter

In 1956, the School and its affiliated Companies were awarded a Royal Charter by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our founder, Dame Ninette de Valois, wanted to secure the essential unity between the two Companies and the School and strengthen their triangular relationship. The Royal Ballet School, The Royal Ballet and the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (later renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet following its move there in 1990) were established as a three-fold institution in December 1956, with The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, as its President.

The queen’s patronage of the school
The royal charter, awarded by hm queen elizabeth ii to the royal ballet school and companies on 31 october 1956, incorporating the coat of arms of the royal ballet © royal opera house. By kind permission roh collections.

Princess Margaret’s passion for ballet

Princess Margaret was a lifelong lover of ballet and had a strong relationship with both the School and its associated Companies. She frequently attended performances by The Royal Ballet and visited the School for numerous events. In 1951, Princess Margaret officially opened the School’s former site in Barons Court; she named the Anna Pavlova Studio at White Lodge in 1957, and the Margot Fonteyn Theatre in 1990. The Royal Opera House dedicated a plaque to Princess Margaret after her death, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in 2003.

The queen’s patronage of the school
Photograph of hrh the princess margaret, guest of honour at the opening of the ‘anna pavlova memorial hall’, the first purpose-built ballet studio installed by the royal ballet school at white lodge. L-r: viscount soulbury, lady-in-waiting, arnold haskell, hrh the princess margaret, ninette de valois, ursula moreton, and david webster, 1957. Photo: reg wilson.   the royal ballet school special collections.

Opening in Covent Garden

As our Patron, The Queen has often been involved in events at the School. In 2003, she presided over the official opening of the Upper School in Covent Garden. The new premises in Floral Street are connected with the Royal Opera House through the Bridge of Aspiration, thus fulfilling Dame Ninette de Valois’ dream to have the School and The Royal Ballet Company side by side in London.

Diamond Jubilee

Students from the School performed for Her Majesty in a special marquee at the Diamond Jubilee Wildlife Event in Richmond Park in 2012. Both The Queen and Prince Philip visited the park, despite the heavy rain and hail on the day. A commemorative Diamond Jubilee pond was installed, created in The Queen’s honour by the Friends of Richmond Park.

A historical programme

White Lodge Museum presented a programme of public events for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Several exhibitions and tours were launched that celebrated the royal history of White Lodge. A Jubilee open day was also held where visitors were able to enjoy picnics in the gardens and access the Boudoir which was the late Queen Mother’s favourite room when she and her husband, the future King George VI, lived at White Lodge. To end the programme of celebrations, a Victorian tea party was hosted, attended by Princess Alexandra. White Lodge students, together with young visitors from Richmond Park’s Holly Lodge Centre, enjoyed an afternoon of Victorian games and sweet treats.

Patron’s lunch

 In 2016, 12 staff from the School were invited to a ‘Patron’s Lunch’ street party to celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday. Representatives of all 600 of The Queen’s charities gathered at this event, which took place down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. Younger members of the Royal Family came out to greet attendees and The Queen and Prince Philip drove by in an open-top car. Anna Meadmore, the School’s Manager of Special Collections, who attended the lunch, gave her account of the event:

During the walkabout, several of our party shook hands with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were friendly and charming.  We could also see Harry, working the crowd on the other side of the Mall. He attracted much chirpy banter, and was happy to oblige with having ‘selfies’ taken. With the rain gone, The Queen and Prince Philip were able to take their open-top car ride down the Mall at a leisurely pace. We were extremely close, and it was a real pleasure to see Her Majesty, smiling broadly, and sailing by in glorious fuschia pink. During the ensuing speeches at 2.30pm, Prince William thanked his ‘Granny’, and the crowd went ‘Ahh!’ (something you didn’t hear on the TV broadcast later that evening – you really had to be there, as the saying goes). The Queen then thanked us all for our birthday wishes, but admitted that if people were still singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her by December, she might feel rather differently about the whole thing!  We had an unforgettable day, and all felt very privileged to be there, both as representatives of The Royal Ballet School, and as participants in a very special moment in British history.

The queen’s patronage of the school

A birthday gift

The Prince of Wales visited White Lodge in 2016 to watch some ballet classes and performances. He delivered a speech to staff and students, expressing his pride in being our School’s President. A pair of decorated pointe shoes, especially created by a White Lodge student, were also presented to His Royal Highness on this day as a gift to Queen Elizabeth for her 90th birthday.

The queen’s patronage of the school