The Queen and the Royal Family's strong links to the National Memorial Arboretum

National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, in tribute to soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Queen Elizabeth II unveils a plaque during a service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, Credit: PA

By ITV News Central Production Journalist Nick Reid

It is one of the most iconic structures in our region. The National Memorial Arboretum is a place of reflection, remembrance and even solace.

It has always had strong ties with the Royal family, who have been visiting the site since it opened in 2002 to unveil memorials, mark milestones and remember those we have lost.

After Buckingham Palace announced to the world on Thursday, September 8, that the Queen had died, the arboretum has joined thousands of others in paying tribute to our monarch.

The Queen was Patron of the Royal British Legion and through it, the National Memorial Arboretum, and she was described as being gracious and generous in providing her support over the years.  

Mark Ellis, National Memorial Arboretum lead, spoke to ITV News about the importance of the site to the Royal family and shared his memories on the Queen's last visit in 2016.

The Royal family have always had strong ties with the national Memorial Arboretum

He said: "It's a strange day for everybody. I've taken a personal moment of reflection. I am someone who is under 70, so like a lot of people,

"The Queen is all I have ever known and she lived for everybody.

"The arboretum is a place of peace and quiet reflection and we have had quite a few people here today coming down to remember the Queen and reflect on the news.

"We are very privileged to get a lot of Royal visits, there is a clear association with the Armed Forces and the Royal family and I think that is why there is such a strong tie."

The Queen's first visit to the arboretum came in 2002 shortly after the site's opening as part of her Golden Jubilee tour.

And from that day the connection with the Royals has grown and grown.

The Armed Forces Memorial was dedicated in the Queen's presence in October 2007.

The National Memorial Arboretum Credit: ITV News Central

In July 2011, The Queen attended the Armed Forces Memorial for the dedication of the names of the 112 members of UK Armed Forces who were killed on duty during 2010.

Her last visit was in May 2016 when she was present for the dedication of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment Memorial.

During that visit she also observed construction work on the Arboretum's current Remembrance Centre. 

But it is not just the Queen who has visited the site as King Charles III, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Anne and the late Prince Philip have all played their part in the arboretum's history.

Mr Ellis said he had cherish memories of the Queen's visit to the arboretum where she unveiled a memorial to the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

The Queen unveils the Duke of Lancaster Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in 2016 Credit: National Memorial Arboretum

He said: "I have clear recollections of the day the Queen came to in 2016.

"She made time for everybody and took a real interest in the work everybody does. She made everybody feel included. I think she was clearly moved by the day.

"She had such a great ability in bringing people together.

"We are very privileged to have had the Queen at the arboretum and to get a lot of members of the Royal family. It is a special place."

Mr Ellis also encouraged people to come to the site to pay their respects to the Queen.

visitors can sign a book of condolence at the arboretum from today (Friday, September 9) at noon and throughout the national period of mourning. 

 The book will be placed in the Drum, within the Arboretum’s Landscapes of Life exhibition.

The Queen at the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum Credit: National Memorial Arboretum

Queen Elizabeth II visits to the National Memorial Arboretum

  • Golden Jubilee tour (planted tree next to amphitheatre) – July 2002

  • The Armed Forces Memorial dedication – October 12, 2007

  • Service of Dedication to commemorate names engraved on Armed Forces Memorial for 2010 - July 2011

  • Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Memorial dedication – 17 May 2016

HM King Charles III Visits (as HRH Prince of Wales) to the National Memorial Arboretum

  • HMS Kelly - Plaque by a tree on Royal Naval Review/Sumatra Railway Memorial – Plaque recording visit on 14th May 2002

  • The Armed Forces Memorial – 12th October 2007

  • Service of Dedication to commemorate names engraved on Armed Forces Memorial for 2007 – 28th June 2008 

  • The Airborne Forces and Parachute Regiment/GCHQ –  13th July 2012

  • British Victims of Overseas Terrorism Memorial Dedication – 17th May 2018

  • VJ Day – 15 August 2020

  • UK Police Memorial dedication – 28th July 2021

Queen Elizabeth II died at her Scottish home of Balmoral, aged 96. Credit: PA

Philippa Rawlinson, director of the National Memorial Arboretum, paid tribute to the Queen.

She said: "Our entire team is immensely saddened by the death of Her Majesty, our Patron.

"Following the proclamation of our new Sovereign, I shall write to Buckingham Palace asking The King’s Private Secretary to express our condolences to all members of the Royal Family.“At this moment in history, we will provide a fitting tribute to The Queen, offering visitors the chance to sign the book of condolence and to leave their messages online.

"There are a number of areas within the Arboretum with which Her Majesty had a particular affinity, and we will be encouraging visitors to follow in her footsteps."

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