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Retro Baltimore

Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy contained some Maryland history

Although the city is thousands of miles from Buckingham Palace, Baltimore played its own role in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch who died Thursday at the age of 96.

Elizabeth was not born to become queen, but her path to the throne opened up when she was 10 and her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson of Baltimore.

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Edward met Simpson, born Bessie Wallis Warfield and raised in a Biddle Street rowhouse, in 1931, when she was still married to Ernest Simpson. She and her previous husband divorced in 1936, the same year Edward gave up his crown.

A book by British celebrity biographer Andrew Morton on “the ultimate Baltimore bad girl” suggested that Simpson had married Edward so she could become Queen of England, while he was searching for a reason to give up his royal responsibilities.

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Elizabeth’s reign began when she was 25, when her father, King George VI, died. Journalist Russell Baker covered the 1953 coronation, which propelled him off the rewrite desk and into a job as The Sun’s London correspondent.

Early into Elizabeth’s reign, Joan Graham of The Sun’s London bureau reported in 1957 on rumors that the queen’s marriage to Prince Philip had become rocky. Graham’s explosive front-page story, which referenced “a vague unhappy discontent,” as some dared to talk to “openly of a rift between Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh,” earned her a cold shoulder from the palace.

Elizabeth visited College Park in October 1957 to attend a University of Maryland football game with former Gov. Theodore McKeldin, who explained the finer points of the sport to the queen. “She is a lovely gracious person — and she’s much prettier than her picture,” McKeldin told a Sun reporter.

The queen also visited Baltimore in 1991, attending an Orioles game at the old Memorial Stadium alongside then-President George H.W. Bush. After arriving by helicopter, the Bushes, Elizabeth and Prince Philip met players and Orioles manager Frank Robinson in the team’s dugout. A crowd of 32,596 fans applauded the queen, and broadcaster Jon Miller read lines from Shakespearean plays in between plays in her honor.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.


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