Queen Elizabeth’s Turkish connections
Queen Elizabeth, who ruled the British realm for 70 years, made only three visits to Turkey during her reign: in 1961, 1971 and 2008.
During the short meeting she held on March 6, 1961; Elizabeth Esenboğa never left the airport. The Queen met with the military administration head of state of the period, Cemal Gürsel. It is reported that Cemal Gürsel and Queen Elizabeth had a secret meeting that lasted 50 minutes in Esenboğa. Allegedly, at that meeting, the executions of the outed Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan were discussed.
The Queen made her second visit to Turkey after her short visit to Esenboğa in 1961, in October 1971, at the invitation of the President of the Republic, Cevdet Sunay. The Queen praised Atatürk and his reforms with strong expressions during this visit, which lasted for seven days and was filled with great public displays of affection. She explained that “few countries have undergone such sudden changes as Turkey, and that the entire social and economic structure of the Turkish nation has changed under the leadership of Atatürk’s genius,” and described this as a “great success” for Atatürk.
Before her arrival, the Royal yacht ‘Brittannia’ arrived in Izmir Harbor and the Queen stayed on the Royal Yacht for most of her visit. On October 22, 1971, Queen Elizabeth tried the first Morris minibus of the BMC factory in Izmir.
“Is this some sort of a folk dance?” the Queen joked, when she was circled by the cops who wanted to shield her from public attention.
The Queen then went to Ankara on October 18. She was greeted with an official ceremony. The next day, she went to Anıtkabir, the tomb of Ataturk. She wrote on the guestbook; “With endless respect to the Father of the Turkish nation, who was valiant in war and a loyal friend in peace”.
The Queen also visited Izmir, Çanakkale and Istanbul besides Ankara. She also visited the Ancient City of Ephesus, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia during her visit in 1971.
Queen Elizabeth’s next and last visit to Turkey took place in 2008. The visit, which took place in Ankara 37 years later her previous visit, was accompanied by intense security measures.
The Queen and her delegation of 25 people, who landed at Esenboğa Airport, had brought gifts with a total weight of 1,600 kilograms.
In her last visit, Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip went to Bursa and toured the Historical Koza Han in Bursa. A janissary statue was presented to the Queen, who was welcomed with a folklore and Mehter show. After the show, the Queen and her husband entered Koza Han and toured the historical building. The Queen, who visited three shops and bought silk fabric, was presented with a silk scarf with an Ottoman monogram motif. After visiting Koza Han, Elizabeth visited the local artist Şefik Bursalı’s Art Gallery. She also watched a “Karagöz show” with the local children.