On the Scene With Bill Wilson – In the Wake of Queen Elizabeth

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2012

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Detail of the No Stopping sign in front of the Cruise Terminal. Bill Wilson photo

Queen Elizabeth was in San Francisco just a day ahead of the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the English throne. Of course it was the ship, Queen Elizabeth not the actual monarch, but it makes a wonderful connection to the story I was going to write anyway, just to show off my royal portrait of the Queen.

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The Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth as viewed from the Butterfly Restaurant’s outside seating. Bill Wilson photo

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were five days into a five month around the world trip when her Father, King George VI passed away in his sleep. They had arrived in Kenya and were spending a private day in a remote area watching wildlife. They had spent the night at a place called “Treetops” where high above a water hole they could observe the wild animals come to drink.

Tradition says that once a reigning monarch’s heart stops their heir becomes monarch in that instant. Princess Elizabeth remained unaware that she had become Queen for several hours. It was only realized that the King had died when his staff was unable to wake him. The message that the King had died was sent in code to the various officials, however the person who had the codes was on his way to meet the Princess so it wasn’t until reporters traveling with the Princess were called by people at their papers that the Princess’ staff was made aware of the situation. It was Prince Phillip who broke the news to her that her father had died.

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Queen Elizabeth 2 dressed in mourning descends the steps of the plane that returned her from Africa to London. Prince Phillip is five steps behind.

In a book, whose title I’ve forgotten, on the Queen’s coronation, the author observed that it might be considered morbid if someone was to pack black clothes in their travel bags, but for Princess Elizabeth, it was just a matter of duty. In a recent story (January 9) in the “Daily Mail” reporter Chris Slack revealed that there was a mix up about the clothes. He wrote, “Arrangements were quickly made for the Royal party to return to London, with a plane flying them from Nanyuki, a nearby town, to Entebbe where a plane was waiting. During the flight, another problem arose in that the Queen’s mourning outfit had already gone ahead and she only had a floral dress to wear. The aircraft decided to land in North Africa where a message was sent ahead and a second black outfit was taken to London airport. Upon the flight’s arrival, the dress was taken aboard after it stopped in the remote area of the airport. The Queen changed quickly before emerging, meeting a line-up including her uncle the Duke of Gloucester and Churchill.”

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During her 1976 visit to Washington, DC I was able to get this photo of the Queen as she did a walk about at the Lincoln Memorial. Bill Wilson photo

Back to the ship, the Queen Elizabeth is Cunard’s newest ship having just been put into service in 2010. It is the second largest ship in the Cunard fleet, second only to the Queen Mary 2. In making her maiden call to the Port of San Francisco the Queen Elizabeth follows in the wake of her sister ships, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria.

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The Queen Mary 2 does fit under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 4, 2007 just five years to the day before the QE maiden call to San Francisco Bill Wilson photo

The Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s largest ship and thousands of people on both land and water came to witness and welcome her as she traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge on February 4, 2007. It wasn’t as close a fit as some had speculated it might be.

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A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the lounges on the Queen Victoria which made her maiden call to the port of San Francisco on January 27, 2010. Bill Wilson photo

The Queen Victoria made her inaugural stop in San Francisco on January 27, 2010. Invitation only tours were given of the ship and her beautiful interiors in an effort to give people a taste of cruising.

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The upper decks of the Queen Elizabeth tower above the Pier 35 where she docked in San Francisco.

The stop in San Francisco is part of the world cruise that Queen Elizabeth is currently on. Spending little more than 13 hours in Port by 9pm she was on her way to Hawaii.

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The Bridge of the Queen Elizabeth can be seen through the windows of the Cruise Terminal at Pier 35.

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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