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A look back on Queen Elizabeth’s Great Lakes tour

A look back on Queen Elizabeth’s Great Lakes tour
September 9, 2022 GLN Editor

Queen Elizabeth II left her mark in the Great Lakes region, from joining President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to sailing on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Following the Thursday news of the longest-reigning British monarch’s passing, PBS stations across the nation broadcasted programs commemorating her life and local news organizations reported on the late queen’s special connection to the region, highlighting the 45-day tour of Canada and the Great Lakes she took in 1959.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip’s royal yacht, the Britannia, sailed up the Detroit River, then up Lake Huron before passing under the Mackinac Bridge and sailing down Lake Michigan and making a stop in Chicago.

MLive reported that the queen’s visit to the Straits of Mackinac area “sparked a little royal fever.”

Though thousands of people gathered in the Straits area when the monarch sailed by, it doesn’t compare to the “royal fever” experienced in Chicago, which the Chicago Sun-Times reported was their only U.S. port of disembarkation on the tour.

More than 1 million spectators lined the lakeshore to welcome Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip with a parade after their arrival at Buckingham Fountain, according to 1959 news reports. Silent outtakes from the Chicago Film Archives include footage of the queen’s motorcade making its way down Michigan Avenue:

“Today history, unforgettable history, has been made in Chicago, and we have all been privileged to be a part of it,” Mayor Richard J. Daley said at the gala dinner the queen attended that day.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “scores of people boarded the Milwaukee Clipper, a Great Lakes ferry, to try to get a closer look at the queen and her entourage” as the yacht passed by the city on their way to Canada.

Archive video from WTMJ-TV shows Queen Elizabeth II touring the Great Lakes. Learn more about the programs being broadcasted that commemorate the legacy of the queen on PBS.org.


Catch more news at Great Lakes Now

First in decades, a new Great Lakes freighter joins fleet

African scientists visit the North American Great Lakes in international exchange


Featured image: Queen Elizabeth II’s royal yacht passing beneath the Mackinac Bridge in 1959. (Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Bridge Authority)

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