Queen Elizabeth II

Remembering the Late Queen Elizabeth II’s 1991 Tour of Houston

As we look back on her life and reign, we remember the Queen’s 1991 United States tour, which included a stop in Houston.

By Claire Anderson September 8, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II, left, and Governor of Texas Ann Richards pause before receiving guests at the Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesday, May 23, 1991 in Houston. 

Queen Elizabeth II, longest reigning monarch of England for 70 years, has died at age 96. As we look back on her life and reign, we remember the Queen’s 1991 United States tour, where she and the late Prince Phillip visited several cities in Texas, including Houston. This marked the first time a British monarch had visited the Lone Star State.

A clip of the Queen's visit can be seen in the video below starting at around 3:33:  

Beginning their tour on May 14 in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., the royals met then-President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, originally of Texas. They traveled through Virgina, Maryland, and Florida before arriving in Austin, quickly followed by San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. They spent a total of two and a half days in Texas, staying in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Houston.

In each Texas city, the Queen and Prince Phillip met with heads of state, all of whom happened to be female: Texas Governor Ann Richards, Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss, Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire, and Fort Worth Mayor Kay Granger. In Dallas, the Queen was greeted by groups of people dressed in traditional Native American clothes and early colonial costumes to reflect on Texan history, and a speech she gave in Austin remarked on 19th-century British thoughts on Texan character. “One hundred and fifty years ago the British consul in Texas reported to our foreign office that ‘Texans are rough and wild, but their consistency and courage are admirable.’”

Queen Elizabeth II speaks to first graders from Westlawn Elementary in LaMarque, Texas as she was leaving Houston’s City Hall after welcoming ceremonies on Wednesday, May 22, 1991. The first graders had written to the queen inviting her to their school. At right is Prince Philip. 

While in Houston, Queen Elizabeth was presented by Mayor Whitmire with a key to the city. She and the Prince visited the Antioch Bishop Missionary Church, a historic building in Downtown Houston, where a gospel choir performed for the royals. They also visited the Veteran Affairs Hospital, where the Queen met with wounded veterans, and the Johnson Space Center, where Prince Phillip tried out space suit gloves and the Queen showed curiosity regarding the intricacies of space travel (specifically, by asking present astronauts how food does not float off plates in space, according to the Los Angeles Times).

Rounding out the Texas tour, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston hosted a private dinner for the Queen, Prince Phillip, and 100 guests, including Governor Richards. At the dinner, she bestowed an honorary knighthood on Cecil H. Green, the late co-founder of Texas Instruments who was originally born in England.

Although the Queen made another trip to the United States in 2007, this would be her only visit to the Lone Star State, ending on May 23, 1991. One can imagine our Texan charm and hospitality must have been added to that 150-year-old list of admirable traits following the end of the Queen’s American tour. In her speech in Austin, the Queen also remarked that “No state commands such fierce pride and loyalty. Lesser mortals are pitied for their misfortune in not being born Texans.”

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