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Remembering our Patron: Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and RNIB

Her Late Majesty The Queen receiving flowers from a child at an event in 1993.

Her Late Majesty The Queen receiving flowers at an event in 1993

As we come to terms with the death of Her Late Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, we feel we should reflect on the importance of her role as RNIB’s Patron and show how much her work meant to blind and partially sighted people.

Here we share some reaction from people who have had the privilege of meeting Her Late Majesty while representing RNIB and we outline some of the key dates and highlights in our 70-year relationship. 

Her Majesty became RNIB’s Patron in 1952, upon her accession to the throne, and has made a tremendous contribution to our work.

Dame Gail Ronson, RNIB’s President, said: “It has been an honour to be President of RNIB for part of The Queen’s kind and generous patronage. Her Majesty has been a wonderful and supportive Patron and contributed so much to the lives of blind and partially sighted people in that time.”

Over the years of her patronage, Her Majesty attended many of our events, meeting RNIB’s beneficiaries, supporters, volunteers and staff. 

Most recently Her Majesty attended RNIB’s 2013 Royal Gala Dinner, where singer and presenter Michael Ball OBE performed.

Professor Ian Bruce CBE, Vice President of RNIB and our Director General from 1983 to 2003, met Her Majesty on several occasions. He noted how pleased she was to be presented by bouquets of flowers by RNIB school students and meet people who used RNIB services.

In the picture accompanying this piece, Ian is pictured with Her Majesty The Queen and is encouraging the student to hand over her precious flowers.

Ian, who has written about the history of RNIB in his book Vision Changing Charity – RNIB in socio-political context 1970-2010 which will be published next year, explained the impact of Her Majesty’s support.

“It has been such an important relationship,” he added. “RNIB has been privileged to have The Queen as its Patron and her attendance – and support – has contributed so much to RNIB’s work and the help it has given people with sight loss.

“Her presence at RNIB’s events was special. She added so much to every occasion and by attending and meeting many of our guests, she gave us so much inspiration and support.”

Julie Newall, RNIB’s Partnership Engagement Manager, who has worked with us for more than 20 years, organised several events attended by Her Majesty.

“We have gained so much from her support,” she remembered. “Honoured, special, unique … Everyone felt so pleased when she came to an RNIB event. Everyone wanted to meet her, of course, but even, if you didn’t get the chance, there was a tremendous buzz in the room knowing she was there and interested in what we were all doing.”

For Julie, the interaction with RNIB pupils and students and other guests is an outstanding memory.

She added: “If you met The Queen or were one of the people who got the special honour of giving her flowers, you felt massively honoured. So many told me it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. They must have had to pinch themselves – you could tell they couldn’t wait to show their picture with her and tell their family and friends.”

RNIB and Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – some highlights 


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becomes our Patron.


Our name officially changes to Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to reflect our Royal Charter and the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen.


Her Majesty The Queen makes her first official visit to RNIB.


Her Majesty The Queen visits Foresight, an exhibition marking the centenary of our organisation.


Her Majesty The Queen opens the RNIB North London School of Physiotherapy for the Visually Handicapped.


Her Majesty The Queen, attends a reception in March 1992 at St James’ Palace to meet people from RNIB and the individuals, volunteers, celebrities, trusts and foundations who supported the Looking Glass Appeal.


Her Majesty The Queen attends Hey Mr Producer, a tribute concert for Sir Cameron Mackintosh held in aid of RNIB at the Lyric Theatre in West London in June 1998.


RNIB’s first Gala dinner takes place in May at St James’ Palace, with The Queen attending the opening reception, with Andrea Bocelli the famous blind Italian tenor singing and attended by A-list stars and more than 250 guests.


Sir Rod Stewart performs for Her Majesty The Queen at RNIB’s Royal Gala at St James’ Palace, attended by more than 150 guests.


RNIB modifies its name, adding People to the title. We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People.


RNIB Gala Dinner, attended by Her Majesty The Queen where singer Michael Ball OBE performed.