In memory of our Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Since the sad death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8 September 2022, we have spent time with our students and our wider community reflecting on her remarkable life and her generous and steadfast support of the School.
Her Majesty became Patron of The Royal Ballet School in 1956 when the School was awarded its Royal Charter, an honour of which the School has always been deeply proud.
Our Chairman, Christopher Rodrigues CBE, shared the following statement:
Under Her Majesty’s patronage, The Royal Ballet School has trained and nurtured young people for the brightest futures in the world of classical ballet and beyond, working with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet to preserve and drive forward our beloved art form.
The Royal Ballet School motto, ‘Strength and Grace’, reflects the style in which Her Majesty served her country for over 70 years. Her remarkable dedication will never be forgotten and is an inspiring example to all of us as we enter the next era of our country’s shared future and approach the School’s Centenary in 2026.
On behalf of all at The Royal Ballet School, I have extended my heartfelt condolences to our President, King Charles III, our Vice President, the Lady Sarah Chatto, and the Royal Family. We share in their grief.
The School has opened books of condolence at both White Lodge and Upper School and online, welcoming messages of gratitude and remembrance from students, parents, alumni and our wider community. We will pass the completed books to the Palace to form part of the Royal Archives.
The Royal Ballet School was founded by Dame Ninette de Valois in 1926, the year of Her Majesty The Queen’s birth. Here we look back at the School’s close connections with Her Majesty, starting with a shared home.
Her Majesty at White Lodge
The Queen’s parents, Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, moved to White Lodge after their marriage in 1923 at the suggestion of the Duke’s mother, Queen Mary, who had happy childhood memories of the place. When Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926, her birth certificate gave White Lodge as her parents’ home address. The family continued to live there until 1927 when they moved to 145 Piccadilly.
Still displayed at White Lodge are several photographs from The Royal Collections, capturing members of the Royal Family in some memorable moments. There is a particularly special photograph of The Queen Mother seated on the steps of the building holding Queen Elizabeth II as a baby. Year 10 student Azusa Tanaka recreated this image as a beautiful drawing which was sent to Her Majesty The Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee to congratulate her on her 70-year reign.
In 1954, White Lodge was given to The Royal Ballet School for use by students up to the age of 16. The famous Salon was transformed into a dance studio and the former stables were turned into academic classrooms. The gift of White Lodge as a fully-residential vocational ballet school meant that for the first time the School could truly attract dancers based on their potential, regardless of geographical location, academic ability or personal circumstances, and nurture and train them to the very highest standard. Today, many generations of Royal Ballet School students can say that they shared a home with the late Queen.
The Royal Charter and Her Majesty’s Patronage
The Royal Charter was awarded in 1956, and 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, with The Queen as its Patron and her sister, Princess Margaret, as its President.
Princess Margaret had a passion for ballet and cultivated a close relationship with the School and Companies, frequently visiting the School, meeting students and watching classes. In 1957 she opened the Anna Pavlova Studio and in 1990 the Margot Fonteyn Theatre, both at White Lodge. She was also often seen enjoying performances by our associated Companies, The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet.
In 2003, our Patron Queen Elizabeth visited the School to officially open the new Upper School premises at Floral Street in Covent Garden. The new Floral Street premises are connected with the Royal Opera House via the Bridge of Aspiration, achieving Dame Ninette de Valois’ dream to have the School and The Royal Ballet Company side by side in London.
Celebrating our Patron
Students and staff have felt privileged to be involved in celebrations of our Patron over the years. Notably, 30 1st Year students had the honour of performing at the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace as part of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee festivities. The concert was held at Buckingham Palace in front of an audience of 22,000 people and broadcast live across the BBC, bringing together a dazzling line-up of stars from stage, screen and the sporting world.
Our students performed in a piece choreographed by Royal Ballet School alumna Kristen McNally and starring alumni and Royal Ballet Principals Lauren Cuthbertson and Reece Clarke, set to music by Hans Zimmer’s Planet Earth Suite II. The piece was created to highlight the beauty and wonder of our natural world and the vital importance of increasing our efforts to protect it, and as the dancers performed, the audience heard an impassioned speech by Sir David Attenborough. To reflect the theme of sustainability, costumes for the dancers were designed by Olivia Pomp using former ballet and opera costumes repurposed from the Royal Opera House costume store.
Our Artistic Director Christopher Powney said of the performance:
What an astonishing event, and how honoured we were to be invited to participate in the Party at the Palace in honour of our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Our students were excited and delighted to be dancing on a stage shared by so many of our global top artists and for a truly worldwide audience and were in awe of being part of such a momentous occasion. Both our students and alumni did us very proud and will remember this remarkable experience forever.