Thousands line streets for Queen's visit

THOUSANDS of people gave the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh a rapturous reception as they visited north Essex yesterday .The Royal couple toured Harwich, Colchester and the University of Essex during their day in the county.

THOUSANDS of people gave the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh a rapturous reception as they visited north Essex yesterday .

The Royal couple toured Harwich, Colchester and the University of Essex during their day in the county.

The visit was marred slightly by a vocal anti-monarchy demonstration by a small band of students at the university – but Her Majesty showed no response to the outburst.

In Harwich, the Queen and Prince Philip went to the Guildhall where they were shown a visitors' book they signed on their last visit in 1958. They signed it again this time and Her Majesty also signed a print of herself which will be put up in the council building.

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They looked at the Royal Charter, which is 400 years old this year, and were given a tour of the old gaol with its authentic 18th Century graffiti.

The Queen went to Ha'Penny pier and looked at the Harwich Society's Mayflower exhibition, while the Duke of Edinburgh branched off separately to lay the first official stone for the new Trinity House building.

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The couple met up again at the 1912 centre, for a reception with dignitaries, townsfolk and veterans. They also went inside the Electric Palace cinema, one of the oldest working cinemas in the country.

In Colchester, the Royal couple met excited crowds during a short walkabout in the High Street, before having lunch in the Town Hall, where she ate on her last visit to the town 19 years ago.

They rounded off their trip at Essex University, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

They looked at an exhibition and demonstrations of some of the university's cutting edge research in the library, before unveiling a commemorative plaque, receiving a bouquet from children from the university day nursery and meeting students at SX Express fast food restaurant.

Second year history student Andy Abbott led an anti-monarchy demonstration as the Royal party stopped to listen to a speech by Vice Chancellor Ivor Crewe and unveil a plaque commemorating the university's 40th anniversary.

Mr Abbott led about 25 students in chants of: “One, two, three, four, no more monarchy anymore, five, six, seven, eight, thanks to you our essays are late.”

A man in the crowd shouted “We love you, Queen” in a message of support.

Protesters stopped chanting for Prof Crewe's speech. They tried to start up again afterwards, but were led away by police.

Mr Abbott said: “The visit caused serious disruption to students at the busiest time of term.

“The library has been shut since Tuesday night, I had a lecture cancelled today which should have been on 1649, and I should have had a class. It's not acceptable, especially since we pay such exorbitant fees.”

He said he warned police about the demonstration and officers agreed they had the right to peaceful protest. However Mr Abbott's group was led away because police told them the crowd was turning on them.

Commenting on the protest, Prof Crewe said: “You'll always get a group of students who make a lot of noise. I was interested that they were drowned out by other students.”

There had also been controversy ahead of the visit over Harwich School's decision to ban pupils from taking time off to see the Queen, while headteacher Jacky Froggatt was a guest at the town's civic reception.

But it seemed that some pupils decided the visit was just too important to miss with many spotted in their uniforms in the crowd.

At the 1912 Centre Miss Froggatt spoke briefly with the Queen, who asked her what she did.

On the controversial decision not to close her school to allow children to welcome the Queen to the town, she said: “It was not my decision - it was the governing body.”

Essex County Council has issued a statement on Miss Froggatt's behalf stating: “The governing body of Harwich School recognises the significance of a royal visit to the town and acknowledges that some students and their parents have expressed disappointment at the decision not to close the school.

“The matter was discussed at length by the full governing body and it was decided unanimously by those present that it would be in the students' best interests to maintain a normal working day.

“This is an exceptionally busy time for the school. Year-11 students at the school are involved in mock examinations which are important in the preparation for their GCSE exams. It was felt to be unfair to allow some students to take time off and not others.

“Discussions with the governing body were lengthy and difficult but it was decided that the school remain open in order to maintain the educational interests of the students.”

Waiting to cheer Her Majesty on at the Ha'Penny Pier had been Heidi Pratchett, who allowed her 11-year-old daughter Abbie to miss going to Harwich School.

On the decision not to close the school, Mrs Pratchett said: “I think it's a terrible shame. I can appreciate it is less disruption for their exams but it is an important occasion and it's important for us to be part of the community.

“I asked Abbie if she would like to go and she said yes she would like to very much. We will take her back after this.”

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