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The Day the Queen Cheered on the Terps

With Elizabeth’s Passing, Revisit Her Historic Afternoon at UMD Football Game

By Karen Shih ’09

Queen Elizabeth II at Maryland football game

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she sits in the stands at the football game. In her row, from left to right: UMD President Wilson Elkins, the queen, Gov. Theodore McKeldin, Dorothy Elkins, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. President Elkins said the queen was “most interested in the difference between the English Rugby and the American game,” reported The Diamondback.

Photos courtesy of University of Maryland Archives

Queen Elizabeth II was known for her stoicism and steady hand in shepherding the United Kingdom and the royal family itself through seven decades of change and challenges. Fans of the monarch, who died today at age 96, also related to her colorful outfits and love of corgis and horse racing.

But for one day, at the University of Maryland, she was also a fan of American football.

At the invitation of Maryland Gov. Theodore McKeldin, she and Prince Philip visited the university on Oct. 19, 1957, to watch her first and only U.S. football game, when the Terps upset North Carolina, 21-7. The contest became famous as the Queen’s Game.

“What an amazing coincidence it was that the Terps were playing the Tar Heels in College Park the very weekend the Queen was going to be in Washington visiting President Eisenhower and that Prince Philip had expressed a desire to see a typical American sport,” said University Archivist Emerita Anne Turkos. “It was a day filled with pageantry and unforgettable memories for those who played in the game and sat in the stands.”

The event was also part of the queen’s lifelong effort to maintain Britain’s “special relationship” with the U.S., said British royalty expert Julie Taddeo, a research professor in the department of history.

“She rode horses with [President Ronald] Reagan, waltzed with [President Gerald] Ford, and was hugged by [First Lady] Michelle Obama,” she said. “Football is such a quintessentially American event. It helped build this American affection for British royalty.”

That goodwill could be important as the UK crowns a new, much less popular king. The queen’s death “is happening at a very pivotal moment for Britain when it’s still dealing with Brexit and its aftermath, and feeling very fractured,” said Taddeo. “There are questions about Scotland wanting to leave, the new prime minister has only been in position for a couple of days, and there are lots of concerns about the economy and heating costs going into the winter.”

Taddeo believes the monarchy will survive the transition, just as the queen led the nation through the dismantling of its empire following World War II—and through years of scandal. As the world considers her legacy, take a look at how she made a royal splash just five years into her rule with her visit to UMD.

ticket from Queen's Game

University Archives’ holdings on the Queen’s Game include a ticket stub to the game.

Queen arrives at stadium in limousine

The queen arrives at Byrd Stadium in a limousine. Her motorcade made an early exit from the game in order to get to the White House to meet President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Queen and governor stand with football team captains

Queen Elizabeth II and Maryland Gov. Theodore McKeldin stand with team captains and inspect the coin to be used for the coin toss. Prince Philip is shown at far right. According to a University Archives blog post, each of the team captains presented the queen and prince with an autographed football and a replica of the coin used in the toss. Prince Philip, “humbly accepting” the autographed football, said, “I feel like kicking it myself!”

Queen Elizabeth in the stands at football game

A color photograph from the Terrapin yearbook shows Queen Elizabeth II sitting in the stands among 45,000 fans to watch the Maryland Terrapins play the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

band marches on the field while fans hold up cards to form Union Jack in the stands

The Mighty Sound of Maryland marches on the field with fans holding up cards to form the Union Jack flag in the background. The band also made a formation of Queen Elizabeth II's crest, using “ER II,” for Elizabeth Regina, during the halftime show, and played “God Save the Queen.”

program from the Queen's Game

A football program cover from the game, produced by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

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