Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the British Red Cross: remembering 70 years

Seven decades with the late The Queen as our Patron. Here, we take a look back at some moments in our relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, from her earliest address at our National Conference to comforting service users during their time of need.

What the Queen did for the UK and around the world: 70 years with the Red Cross

Last updated 19 April 2023

The British Red Cross remembers 70 years of the late Queen Elizabeth II as our Patron. As one of the late Queen's charities, the Red Cross received her abiding support throughout her life for our work here in the UK, and around the world.

Countless Red Cross appeals for disasters and tragedies have benefited from her generous donations. Most recently, Her Majesty donated to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal and the Tonga earthquake appeal in 2022.

Queen Elizabeth was also a source of support and comfort to people during some of the toughest times in their lives and her unwavering sense of duty and service was admired by so many. During a landmark speech on her 21st birthday, she famously said: "I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service”.

Today, we know that this powerful commitment extended to her decades of valuable charity work and philanthropy.

Queen Elizabeth met Red Cross staff and volunteers on numerous occasions over the years, including as they supported the victims of major crises at Aberfan and Grenfell Tower.

Here are some special moments from our relationship with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

"I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given" Queen (then Princess) Elizabeth II, 1947

1949: Princess Elizabeth becomes patron of the British Junior Red Cross 

Princess Elizabeth, then Duchess of Edinburgh, becomes patron of the British Junior Red Cross.

She thrilled legions of young Red Cross volunteers when she spoke at the National Conference of British Red Cross Society youth members at Friends House on 3 November, 1945.

1951: HRH Princess Elizabeth visits a patient in a Red Cross hut used by tuberculosis patients

Her Majesty made personal visits to many of the people we have supported over the years, cheering them up in their darkest hours. In this image, she supports a young man with tuberculosis in Scotland.

More recently, the Queen commended the British Red Cross for our work during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that our staff and volunteers are ‘valued and greatly appreciated’.

1952: Supporting the crowds during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II became monarch in 1952 when she was just 25 years old.

During the Christmas broadcast of 1952, the new Queen Elizabeth II gave her first speech, in which she paid tribute to her late father, George VI, and went on to thank the nation.

"Since my accession ten months ago, your loyalty and affection have been an immense support and encouragement. I want to take this Christmas Day, my first opportunity, to thank you with all my heart."

During the Queen's coronation on 2 June 1953, the British Red Cross first aid teams were proud to keep crowds safe with around 1,500 hardy members on duty.

They supported the public all along the procession route, treating more than 1,000 people - some of whom had fainted with all the excitement.

It rained all day, but despite the appalling weather, officers and members displayed ‘the greatest devotion to duty and the most unselfish and skillful interest in their patients’, our annual report for 1953 stated.

Red Cross officers on duty were able to witness the pageantry and celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Coronation almost in its entirety.

"I want to take this Christmas Day, my first opportunity, to thank you with all my heart" Queen Elizabeth II, 1952 Christmas Broadcast

Young Wendy Englefield from Hampshire was chosen to represent the junior Red Cross in the service at Westminster Abbey.

"The Queen looked wonderfully beautiful", she said "and moved down the Abbey with great dignity."

Wendy had the perfect seat to watch the procession and said that the whole scene ‘[was] like a fairy-tale’.

1970: The Queen greets British Red Cross volunteers at our centenary at Buckingham Palace 

The Queen personally marked both the Red Cross centenary year and the 150th anniversary in 2020.

For the latter, she sent a commemorative coin from the Royal Mint to 150 outstanding staff and volunteers and gave this message to all at the Red Cross:

"Whether those involved in the society are assisting people to return home from hospital safely, offering care and support in the aftermath of a disaster, volunteering in a shop, administering first aid or some of the many other activities the British Red Cross encompasses, their contribution is recognised, valued and greatly appreciated."

1989: A keen interest in our international work - Queen Elizabeth II visits British Red Cross HQ

The Queen visited the British Red Cross head office for the first time in 1989. She took a keen interest in photographs of Erico Fletcher's reunion with her family in Hungary, traced through the British Red Cross tracing service. 

2002: Celebrating the British Red Cross at Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee

Not only did British Red Cross volunteers protect the crowds at Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee on Wednesday, 6 February 2002, but we were also honoured to take part in the procession too.

Several of our volunteers marched down The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace and were cheered on by high-spirited crowds on either side. 

2017: Visiting victims of the Manchester Arena bombing

When a bomb exploded at the Manchester Arena on 22 May, 2017, British Red Cross staff and volunteers provided basic first aid and emotional support at the scene. We also set up a hardship fund for people affected by the attack.

2017: Unveiling a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the British Red Cross' longest-serving royal patron

On 14 October 2017, the Queen unveiled a special portrait at Windsor Castle marking nearly seven decades as the British Red Cross royal patron. 

The painting includes a bust of Red Cross founder, Henry Dunant, depicting the long-term relationship between the Red Cross and the Royal Family. 

Artist Henry Ward, a long-time supporter of the British Red Cross, said:

"As a long-standing supporter of the British Red Cross, it has been an honour to paint the Queen to celebrate decades of her patronage."

"As a long-standing supporter of the British Red Cross, it has been an honour to paint The Queen to celebrate decades of her patronage." Artist, Henry Ward

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