The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Wonderful, wonderful’: The time Queen Elizabeth II watched Maryland upset UNC

Queen Elizabeth II and Maryland Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin (R) examine the ceremonial coin as captains from North Carolina, left, and Maryland look on. (Courtesy University of Maryland)

No matter how impressive the guest list is for Maryland’s homecoming game against Indiana on Oct. 28, it probably won’t compare to the distinguished company in attendance for the Terrapins’ game against North Carolina 60 years ago Thursday.

On Oct. 19, 1957, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip watched Maryland upset the No. 14 Tar Heels, 21-7, at Byrd Stadium from a specially erected box on the visitor’s side of the field. The game fell during The Queen’s first visit to the United States as a monarch, a six-day trip that began with a stop in Virginia for the 350th anniversary celebration of the founding of Jamestown. During her time in D.C., The Queen attended a state dinner at the White House and visited Washington National Cathedral, Children’s Hospital and the National Gallery of Art. While planning her visit, she specifically requested the chance to see her first American football game.

“We are very excited that she is coming to College Park,” Maryland Coach Tommy Mont said after the announcement was made in August of that year. “We will show her the best we possibly can. We got pretty badly licked by North Carolina last year, but it won’t happen this year.”

Maryland lost, 34-6, to the Tar Heels and ex-Terps coach Jim Tatum in Chapel Hill in 1956. North Carolina arrived in College Park in 1957 with a 3-1 record and ranked 14th. Maryland officials were determined to keep the “Queen’s Game” as typical as possible to give their royal visitors an authentic experience. “We want the game to go-on much as usual,” Dr. Albin Kuhn, assistant to the president, told The Post. During the week leading up the game, Maryland co-captains Gene Alderton and Jack Healy practiced their pregame presentation to The Queen. Alderton got a new front tooth for the occasion, replacing one that had been knocked out as a result of a head-on collision earlier in the season. Decorative flags and red, white, black and gold bunting ringed the playing field.

The Queen’s party arrived via motorcade. Her Majesty was showered with gifts, including a gold brooch shaped like a Terrapin and set with rubies and diamonds, and a covered urn of Steuben glass. Maryland’s players gave her an autographed football, and North Carolina presented her a medallion with her likeness after it was used for the coin toss. Maryland’s cheerleaders offered mums.

“It sounded like a formal ball of the Napoleonic era when the various ambassadors, high Government officials and other VIPs were introduced over the loudspeaker,” The Post’s Bob Addie wrote of the pregame festivities. “One almost expected the VIPs to come walking down the ballroom steps — but the nearest to that were the steps leading to the Maryland football team’s dressing room.”

A sellout crowd of 43,000 attended the game. The Post reported that “Western Union tripled its facilities in the press box” and newspaper, radio, TV and motion picture representatives from London, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia were among the 480 accredited members of the press. The Queen’s special security force was more than 300 people strong, including special agents from the Maryland State police, Secret Service, National Detective Agency and Scotland Yard.

Students displayed cards with The Queen’s initials, while the Maryland and North Carolina marching bands played “Rule, Britannia” during the halftime show. As for the game, Maryland running back Ted Kershner’s 81-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter broke a 7-7 tie. The celebration was subdued when the game ended on an incomplete pass. “Instead of pouring onto the field to storm the goal posts, the fans obeyed a request made earlier over the loudspeaker to remain in their seats until The Queen had departed,” The Post’s Dave Brady wrote. Mont’s players carried him to The Queen’s box after the win.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” The Queen said.

“Very wonderful,” Prince Philip said, shaking Mont’s hand.

Here’s how Edward T. Folliard described the game in The Post:

For the better part of three hours yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II had the unusual experience of not being stared at — and this in spite of the fact that she was part of a crowd of 43,000. She and Prince Philip went to College Park, Md., five miles outside of Washington, to see an exciting football game between the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina. The great throng cheered the royal couple on their arrival, bands serenaded them, and drum majorettes strutted for them. There also was cheering and staring during the intermission, and at the end. But for most of the time the eyes of the 43,000 fans were on the gridiron where Maryland’s Terrapins defeated North Carolina’s Tar Heels, 21 to 7. This meant that the “Queen’s Game,” as it will always be known at College Park, was a major upset, North Carolina having been a 7-point favorite before the kick-off. But if this was a surprise, it was a mild one compared to something that happened after the game.

Oh, right. After the game, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip paid a surprise visit to a Giant supermarket in West Hyattsville on their way back to the White House. Via The Post:

The royal limousine drew up before the Giant Food Store and, to the complete amazement of hundreds of weekend shoppers, the Queen and her Prince consort got out and walked into the store. Housewives and other shoppers inside the store looked up in astonishment as they found the Queen and Prince Philip peering into their shopping carts. … While the Queen strolled about, the Prince separated from the party and soon found himself munching sample crackers and cheese bits someone offered him. “Good for mice,” he smiled at the gaping crowd around him. The young Queen, clad in a mink coat, appeared charmed by the shopping carts with small seats for youngster. “How nice that you can bring your children along,” Her Majesty told one woman who was wheeling a baby.

Donald A. D’Avanzo, the assistant manager of the West Hyattsville Giant, said The Queen was “quite interested in the frozen chicken pot pies.” The Post reported that The Queen and Philip were also fascinated by the racks of nonfood items, including clothing, school supplies and Halloween gear. A member of the royal party announced that, in England, only food is sold in food stores.


This post has been updated.

More from The Post:

Your moment of College Football Playoff Zen: There are no bad losses, only good wins

Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson to go on six-month sabbatical

Maryland football is halfway to a bowl bid, but the remaining path is rocky

A 5-foot-7 Georgetown graduate became Maryland football’s most unlikely player