SIXTY years ago this week, the world was shocked to learn of the death of King George VI.
Two days later, on February 8, 1952, his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was proclaimed Queen and on Wednesday she celebrated her diamond jubilee as the British monarch.
Her father was just 56 when he died in his sleep at Sandringham on February 6, where he was born on December 14, 1895.
The St Andrews Citizen of February 9, 1952, reported: ‘‘In accordance with the Constitution, Princess Elizabeth became Queen immediately on the death of the King.
‘‘She and the Duke of Edinburgh were in Kenya at the time and were due to leave there on Thursday for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on their way to Australia and New Zealand. She immediately decided to fly back to London on Wednesday and arrived on Thursday afternoon.
‘‘News of the King’s death spread rapidly through St Andrews and was received everywhere with dismayed incredulity which gave place to a general feeling of deep bereavement.’’
Within a few minutes of the intimation, the bell of Holy Trinity Church tolled out its sad message while the flag above the Town Hall was flown at half mast.
A message of condolence in the name of the citizens of St Andrews was sent by Provost W.P.A. Tulloch and the Town Council.
A two-page tribute to the late king was carried in the Citizen of Saturday, February 16, which also revealed that a ‘‘colourful and picturesque Proclamation ceremony acknowledging the succession of the Queen was held at the ancient Mercat Cross, Market Street, last Saturday.’’
On that day, a large enclosure was railed off near the platform so that local school children could see the proceedings.
Pupils from the former Burgh School, Madras College, St Leonards and St Katherines were all present along with members of the St Andrews Girls’ Guildry.
The university Senate led by Principal and vice-Chancellor, Sir James Irvine, walked to the Cross in their academic robes preceded by the bearers of the Four Maces, while members of St Andrews Town Council made their way to the gathering in their civic robes.
Students in their scarlet gowns followed the Senate in procession from the university led by the president of the Students’ Representative Council and mingled with the large gathering of townspeople.
At the hour fixed for the reading of the Proclamation a crowd of several hundred people had assembled in the winter sunshine to hear Mr N.C.H. Mackenzie, town clerk, do the honours.
Afterwards , the crowd sang the national anthem followed by three cheers for the new Queen.
Since then, the Royal family have made several return visits to St Andrews, with the Queen and Prince Philip travelling to the ‘Auld Grey Toun’ in the summer of 2005 to attend the graduation of their grandson, William, who had been a student at the university.
The Citizen reported William’s “delight” that the Queen was among leading Royals attending the ceremony at which the prince was presented with his 2:1 degree in geography.
Taking the wheel full circle was his return in February 2011, accompanied by fellow St Andrews graduate Kate Middleton - how his wife - to launch the university’s 600th anniversary celebrations.