When did Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit Hong Kong and what did they see? Did she back a winner at the races?
Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest reigning monarch, visited Hong Kong twice while the city was a British territory. Her first visit was in May 1975 and was so successful that it later inspired the building of a sports stadium. Her second visit came in October 1986.
The queen’s visit in 1975 marked the first time a reigning British monarch had visited the city. She arrived with her husband Prince Philip for a four-day visit on May 4 to an enthusiastic welcome of Gurkha pipers, flag-waving crowds and gun salutes, as described by the South China Morning Post at the time.
Commemorative stamps and coins were issued to mark the occasion and the Post published a royal souvenir pull-out on May 8 under the headline “Queen’s charm captured colony’s heart”, with the issue’s front cover featuring the first colour image published in the paper.
The queen and her husband Prince Philip saw the whole spectrum of Hong Kong society at the time – hawkers, soldiers, taipans, public servants, reporters, students, estate residents, jockeys, shareholders and, above all, children, reported the Post.
The royal couple packed in City Hall, Morse Park, Oi Man Estate, Hung Hom railway station, the University of Hong Kong, the Kwai Chung container terminal, industrial areas in Tsuen Wan and Happy Valley racecourse during their four-day visit.
Hong Kong also put on the first fireworks display since the 1967 riots for the royals on their last night. They left for Japan the morning of May 7.
In October 1986, Queen Elizabeth paid her second visit to Hong Kong on her way back from China, having become the first British monarch to visit the country. It was two years after the signing of the Joint Declaration between Britain and China so an apt time for a friendly visit from the monarch. While in the country, she saw the terracotta warriors in Xian and visited the Great Wall of China, Shanghai, Kunming and Guangzhou.
She arrived in Hong Kong from China aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia on October 21, 1986 and was welcomed with brass bands, water-spouting fireboats and all the pomp and pageantry befitting a queen. She inspected the honour guard then rode through the streets of Kowloon to flag-waving crowds along Salisbury and Chatham Roads, and visited students at the then-Hong Kong Polytechnic.
Again, there were special coins minted and stamps issued to mark the occasion. Her China tour outshone this second visit to Hong Kong but a highlight for the queen came with her visit to Sha Tin Race Course which had just been expanded for the QEII Cup.
A day at the races is still a favourite pastime for the queen and on this occasion, legendary jockey Tony Cruz was presented to her. This was the queen’s last visit to her colony which was returned to China in 1997.
On the first visit by a reigning British monarch, her majesty visited Kwai Chung container terminal, industrial areas in Tsuen Wan and Happy Valley racecourse