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The Royal Academy of Arts and Her Majesty The Queen: 70 years of patronage

Published 1 June 2022

The Sovereign has been the RA’s “Patron, Protector and Supporter” since our foundation by King George III in 1768. To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we’ve taken a look back at visits Her Majesty has made to the RA throughout her 70-year reign.

  • 1953: A royal dinner and a Coronation

    The first official engagement Her Majesty The Queen attended in her Coronation year was a visit to the Royal Academy. On 10 February 1953 The Queen and her late husband, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Royal Academy to dine with the then President of the Royal Academy, Sir Gerald Kelly and his wife.

    Kelly was a favourite painter of the Royal Family and his portrait of The Queen’s father King George VI is part of the Royal Academy’s permanent collection.

    Later that year the President of the Royal Academy attended the Coronation and presented The Queen with a gift of drawings by Royal Academicians.

  • 1955: The Sovereign at the Schools

    Although Royal Patrons have visited the Royal Academy throughout our history, no Monarch had visited the Royal Academy Schools until The Queen. That changed in March 1955 when The Queen visited the Schools for a tour of the studios and the library.

    Treasures from the RA’s collection were laid out for Her Majesty to see, including a paintbox that belonged to her great great grandmother Queen Victoria, a keen amateur artist.

  • 1963: Signing diplomas

    Since the Royal Academy’s foundation, the Sovereign has signed the Diploma given to each new Royal Academician as formal recognition of their new position. The Queen has frequently received the President of the Royal Academy and the Secretary and Chief Executive, for audiences at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences to sign diplomas and discuss the business of the Academy.

    On occasion, Her Majesty has visited the Royal Academy to sign diplomas in the Council Room. One such visit took place in 1963, when she also attended the Summer Exhibition.

  • 2002: Prizes for promising painters

    20 years ago, as part of her Golden Jubilee tour, The Queen attended a reception at the Royal Academy to present awards to promising students from each of the Royal Academies – Arts, Drama, Music and Dance. The student who was recognised from the RA Schools was a 25 year old Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, who has recently had a major retrospective of her work at Tate Britain.

    The Queen contributed towards the £10,000 prize money personally – the first time in her reign she had made personal contributions to awarded funds.

    On the same day she formally dedicated the Annenburg Courtyard.

  • Her Majesty The Queen at the Opening of the Royal Academy's Annenberg Courtyard, 2002, with Phillip King PRA

    Her Majesty The Queen at the Opening of the Royal Academy's Annenberg Courtyard, 2002, with Phillip King PRA

  • 2016: A 90th birthday present

    16 years later our Royal Patron visited Burlington House as part of her 90th birthday celebrations.

    At a private reception Her Majesty was presented with a bronze sculpture of a 900-year-old oak tree from Windsor Great Park, produced by Factum Arte, an innovative art conservation organisation which specialises in 3D scanning. The replica of this ancient tree symbolised both the longevity of the monarchy and the new pioneering digital technologies inspiring contemporary creativity.

    This was followed by an awards ceremony at which five artists, including Martin Parr and Cornelia Parker RA, were celebrated.

  • The Queen is presented with a bronze replica of a 900-year-old tree in Windsor Great Park

    The Queen is presented with a bronze replica of a 900-year-old tree in Windsor Great Park

  • 2018: Burlington Gardens

    In 2018 we celebrated our 250th anniversary. The RA250 project which marked this milestone was ten years in the making and involved an ambitious revitalisation of our campus at Burlington House and Burlington Gardens.

    As our “Patron, Protector and Supporter”, The Queen joined us to celebrate this anniversary by opening the Burlington Gardens building.

    Her Majesty viewed our exhibition Charles I: King and Collector and unveiled the first painting to be displayed in the new space: a self portrait by the first president of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds..

    ‘Self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA’ and other highlights from the RA Collection are on permanent display in the Collections Gallery.