THE life and service of Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered today as the nation reflects on the first anniversary of her death.

The King and Queen, who are staying at their Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, will attend nearby Crathie Kirk for a poignant event at the church where the late Queen worshipped.

The event will be a deeply personal moment for the King, who became sovereign when his mother died peacefully last year at Balmoral on September 8, aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.

The Prince and Princess of Wales will visit the Welsh cathedral of St Davids for a short private service as part of a trip to Pembrokeshire.

The King recorded a message and released a favourite photograph of his mother to mark the first anniversary of her death and his accession to the throne.

Charles, in words written, and audio spoken, at Balmoral Castle and recorded on Thursday, said he recalled with “great affection her long life, devoted service and all she meant to so many of us”.

He said: “I am deeply grateful, too, for the love and support that has been shown to my wife and myself during this year as we do our utmost to be of service to you all.”

Remembering the Queen's visits to St Helens

The Queen made three visits to St Helens during her reign, which we detail below.

Last year, as part of the jubilee celebrations, historian Stephen Wainwright looked back on those momentous dates.

As the nation remembers the Queen, a year on from her passing, we are again featuring Stephen's in-depth portrayals of the royal visits.

October 21, 1954

"Mummy, Oh Mummy! She's Beautiful!", was what one 8-year-old girl was reported as exclaiming upon seeing the Queen in St Helens.

Elizabeth II's first visit to our town took place on October 21 1954, with the 28-year-old receiving – as one newspaper put it – a "right royal welcome".

It was a much-anticipated event and crowds began lining the route from an early hour.

Popular sightseeing spots were at the junction of Westfield Street and Lowe Street and by the Oxford Cinema in Duke Street.

St Helens Star: The Queen and Mayor of St Helens Thomas Hignett leaving the Town Hall in 1954The Queen and Mayor of St Helens Thomas Hignett leaving the Town Hall in 1954

Around 4,000 excited school children were conveyed in double-decker buses to various locations. The youngsters had an extra reason to cheer as they'd been granted a half-day holiday in the afternoon!

The weather kept fine with occasional sunshine and a stiff breeze in which the considerable bunting and flags on show fluttered wildly – as if they too were excited by royalty coming to town.

Ellen Anders from Joseph Street in Sutton and her daughter Mary had arrived in Victoria Square at 6am in order to stake a good spot to see the Queen. Mrs Anders told one reporter: "She's worth it. We may never see her again."

St Helens Star: The Queen and Prince Philip prepare to enter the Town HallThe Queen and Prince Philip prepare to enter the Town Hall

The distinguished visitors were not scheduled to arrive until 11:30am and by then the Square was packed tight with an excited crowd. The spectators had been warned to avoid dangerous vantage points – but the advice was ignored. Six brave souls climbed to the top of the Gamble Institute and others mounted the War Memorial and Queen Victoria's statue.

Three bus shelters in the Square also served as makeshift viewing platforms. However, too much weight was exerted on one roof and a glass pane gave way causing some alarm.

An escort of white helmeted police on motorbikes headed the royal entourage and the Queen and Duke were met with loud cheers as they arrived in Victoria Square.

Elizabeth and the bowler-hatted Prince Philip were introduced to the Mayor of St Helens, Thomas Hignett, and after the playing of the National Anthem the party entered the Town Hall.

St Helens Star: The Queen arrives at St Helens Town Hall in 1954The Queen arrives at St Helens Town Hall in 1954

The head of state going inside our municipal seat of government was something new, as the two monarchs (George V & George VI) who had previously visited St Helens had ventured no further than a specially mounted stage outside.

After leaving the Town Hall, the royal couple signed the Distinguished Visitors Book.

Their signatures would then be placed in the Mayor's Parlour in an illuminated frame, along with the autographs of the Queen's father and grandfather.

One newspaper wrote that when the party exited the Town Hall, "the waiting crowd released their mounting emotion in a united orgy of cheering, shouting and waving."

Then as the Queen walked down red-carpeted steps to her car, she was "smiling charmingly and repeatedly she waved back gaily again and again to the delighted and adoring crowd."

The visit lasted just over twenty minutes and after formal handshakes and curtsies, the royal entourage were driven through wildly cheering crowds in Cotham Street.

In Westfield Street there were thousands more congregated eight or nine deep. Flags, handkerchiefs, hats and scarves were thrust out towards the royal car and after the procession had passed, the crowds rushed onto the road – "like a huge tidal wave", as described in one report.

People higher up Westfield Street and on Croppers Hill followed suit and rapidly the roads were transformed into rivers of people. As the entourage finally disappeared from sight, women were seen weeping in the street. An elderly lady of seventy-eight said: "Well, I've seen her. I will never see her again, but it's made me happy if I die tomorrow!"

May 25, 1961

When Queen Elizabeth made her first trip to St Helens in 1954, she’d ventured no further than Victoria Square.

So the monarch’s second visit on May 25 1961 was seen as an opportunity to inspect some of the industry for which the town was renowned.

In particular, Pilkington’s revolutionary new float glass plant at Cowley Hill was to receive the royal seal of approval – along with the newly modernised railway station.

St Helens Star: The Queen and Prince Philip arriving at PilkingtonThe Queen and Prince Philip arriving at Pilkington

The royal train was not due to arrive at Shaw Street until 10.15am – but crowds had gathered in the station yard from an early hour.

Joe Murphy, the outgoing Mayor of St Helens, had the honour of receiving the Queen at the station.

St Helens Star: The Queen arriving at St Helens Central

The sovereign wearing a diamond brooch and pearl necklace enquired of Councillor Murphy whether the revamped station had used St Helens glass. “Oh yes!”, replied the Mayor. As if British Railways would dare use any other glass!"

Once the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were seen walking to their Rolls Royce, what was described as a “roaring welcome” emanated from the crowd.

And as their vehicle made its way through the town to Cowley Hill, it was reported that gasps of delight and admiration went up from spectators. “Isn’t she gorgeous”, one teenager was said to have remarked. “She’s beautiful”, gushed another.

At Pilks’ works, the Queen and the Duke were asked to wear splinter-proof spectacles.

These had reportedly been tinted to prevent people from thinking the couple normally wore glasses!

Prince Philip was reported as having asked “countless” questions about the technicalities of glassmaking and the pair observed a plate glass tank where the heat reached temperatures of 1,600 degrees centigrade.

Staff applauded the Queen and Duke as they walked into the polishing department and the couple then entered Pilkington’s secret float glass plant, leaving the press and civic visitors outside.

During their tour the monarch and her consort were introduced to many workers and presented with glass paperweights.

After signing Pilkington’s visitors book, Joseph Owen of Clinkham Wood and Thomas Mitchell from Haresfinch then demonstrated glass cutting to the royal visitors.

The couple then walked through a red-carpeted building where a stand accommodating 1,000 people had been erected. The group cheered and clapped wildly and at the end of the building a number of teenage girls pretended to swoon at the sight of the Duke!

Several hundred more fans were gathered outside the glassworks to watch the royals leave, marshalled by a policeman riding what was described as a "magnificent chestnut horse".

Pilkington employees were lined up just inside the factory's new Queen's Gate to bade the couple farewell and as the cry "she's coming" was heard, the crowd surged forward.

Some women and children then rushed from the other side of the road towards the gates and fought to obtain good vantage points.

The police held them back and when the Queen's car appeared, a great cheer went up. The royal Rolls Royce halted for a moment to give the throng a longer view before driving off to Knowsley Hall.

The day had been a special one for Sarah Dingley from Priory Gardens, off Hard Lane.

The 85-year-old had been disabled all her life and had been allowed to sit in her wheelchair immediately outside the Queen's Gate, within touching distance of the royal car.

Sarah's journey to Pilkington's had been her first outing in nine months.

Despite failing eyesight, Mrs Dingley was close enough to see the Queen in detail and said she looked "lovely". Her daughter added: "This will be something wonderful for my mother to remember for the rest of her days."

June 21, 1977

DURING the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh toured the country, visiting 36 counties in three months.

When the royal couple came to Lancashire and Merseyside in June 1977, more than a million spectators in numerous towns gathered to greet them – of which St Helens’s contribution was 50,000.

Queen Elizabeth’s two-hour visit to the town on June 21st was the longest by a King or Queen – and the scorching sunshine helped to make the day unforgettable.

The royals were not expected to arrive in St Helens until 12.10pm with their first port of call being the Queen’s Recreation Ground. However, the early birds had been out in force many hours before when it was still chilly.

St Helens Star:


By 6am fans had begun arriving in the park armed with coffee, chairs and flags, with Ian Shuker one of the first. The 10-year-old from Boundary Road declared: “I’m freezing, but it’s worth it, our Queen is worth anything”.

Also out early was the Mayor of St Helens, Joe Mulcrow. The 47-year-old hadn’t slept a wink all night, as he was too excited about meeting the Queen. So at 5am Joe decided to tramp the town centre streets for two hours to walk off the tension. The Mayor was a postman by trade and so used to putting his best foot forward!

Elizabeth was visiting Queens Park – as it is known today – to open an aromatic garden for the blind and to plant a tree. Then the Queen and Duke would lunch in the Town Hall and from 6am a number of young people took up positions in Victoria Square. Some were bearing banners that said: “We Love the Queen, O.K.” and “The Queen Rules, O.K.”

By the time of the royal couple’s arrival at Queen’s Recreation Ground, a crowd of 5,000 were waiting to greet them. As Her Majesty was being introduced to some dignitaries, the crowd chanted: “We want the Queen”. Elizabeth was then handed a solid silver spade to plant a silver birch tree in the aromatic garden.

St Helens Star: The crowds were out in forceThe crowds were out in force

This was the first royal visit to be covered by the new St Helens Star, which described how the Queen’s outfit had drawn gasps of admiration, before adding: “Dressed in peach with a matching hat and cream sash, she moved gracefully and coolly through hordes of cheering people.”

Eleven-year-old partially sighted Lorraine Green, of Park Road South in Newton-le-Willows, presented the Queen with a spray of pink roses. The Sovereign – along with Prince Philip and Councillor Mulcrow – then talked to some of the 168 blind, elderly and disabled residents who lined the pathway inside the garden.

The Duke of Edinburgh demonstrated his usual wit in his remarks that could, at times, border on bad taste. A group of disabled people were asked if they had arrived separately or had “come tumbling down the streets of St Helens together”. But nobody appears to have been offended.

The royal couple then left Boundary Road for a reception in the Town Hall through what the Star called a “sea of red, white and blue”, with a fanfare of trumpets announcing their arrival in Victoria Square.

Standing on a rostrum, the Queen acknowledged the cheers of the huge crowd, who immediately began singing the National Anthem. The Guard of Honour was inspected and the monarch and her consort then walked up the steps of the Town Hall for a civic reception and lunch.

The latter had been created by catering officer Hilda Finch and her three cooks and went down well with the royals. Prince Philip told Hilda from Eccleston that it had been a “wonderful meal” and afterwards she said: “I felt as if I was floating on air”.

St Helens Star: Walking down the steps of the Town Hall with Mayor Joe MulcrowWalking down the steps of the Town Hall with Mayor Joe Mulcrow

Councillor Mulcrow summed up the visit and his lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip as: “Simply magic. I have never chatted so much in my life. It was a marvellous experience which surpassed my wildest expectations.”