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Professorial Lecture: Prof Jean Williams

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The University Of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus

Gorway Road

Walsall

WS1 3BD

United Kingdom

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Title: Send Her Victorious, Happy and Glorious: looking forward to the 2020 Olympic Games, by looking back at Elizabeth II’s role in promoting the Olympic Movement

Although there have been high profile ways in which politicians and heads of state have used the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes during the last hundred and twenty five years, perhaps the longest running and most overlooked use of Olympism has been the way in which Elizabeth II has used the games to promote the House of Windsor and her own role as head of state, in a way that makes her a relatable figure. Although she has been patron at of the All England Lawn Tennis and croquet club at Wimbledon for over sixty five years, she has attended the championship only four times, for instance. Whereas, as both a head of state, and as a holidaymaker, she has attended numerous Olympic Games, since the second London Olympics in 1948 when King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary opened proceedings. By 1948 Princess Elizabeth, in her late twenties was the world personality who most embodied the hope of the times, after the horrors of World War Two. Having already married Prince Philip in 1947, after a short engagement, and with their first child Prince Charles born in 1948, Elizabeth, along with her sister Margaret, was a glamorous figure at the second London Olympics. She would accede to the throne, in 1952 as head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of Australia, Canada, Ceylon, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, as well as the United Kingdom. The Coronation in 1953 combined pomp, references to antiquity, ritual and modern mass communication. In many ways the Olympic brand and the young beautiful monarch celebrated a display of lavish Technicolour. This continued as the equestrian expertise of Elizabeth was celebrated at home and abroad. Although the 1952 Olympic Games were held in Helsinki, Melbourne Australia hosted in 1956 with equestrian events in Stockholm, and through boycott, dissent and the increased politicisation of the Olympic Games, the enthusiasm of the Windsors remained. Well before we were led to believe a serving monarch jumped out of a helicopter along with James Bond to open London 2012, the Queen has embraced Olympic spectacle in ways that no monarch before had, quite, or for quite so long. Little wonder then, this presentation argues, that it was her daughter, the Princess Royal who became the first of this family to become an Olympic competition and a member of the IOC, or that her granddaughter Zara Tindall, would also follow suit. As the national anthem is played or sung for each medal, it is perhaps also not surprising that the Olympic games provides the monarchy with the opportunity for moments of national communion, and as such, a rich vein of connection with the viewing public.

Jean Williams has written extensively on the history of the Olympic Games, and on the history and culture of sport. Jean’s monograph on Britain’s Women Olympians, called Send Her Victorious is due for completion in the next year.

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The University Of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus

Gorway Road

Walsall

WS1 3BD

United Kingdom

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