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Chile, Royal Links and Her Majesty The Queen

In the middle of the meeting of the Committee of the Anglo Chilean Society, on 8 September 2022, we received the news of the death of Her Majesty The Queen. It was a sad and profound moment.

Few people in the UK realise the long standing links between the Royal Family and Chile and the strength of interest of people in Chile in what is happening. Many remember The Queen’s visit in 1968.

Royal links go back to pre-colonial days when Chile and England shared a Queen for a short time – Queen Mary I, through her marriage in 1554 to Philip II of Spain. (A portrait of Maria Tudor: Regina Chiliae is reported to have once hung in the Museo de Bellas Artes in Santiago.) A pageboy at the wedding in London, Alfonso de Ercilla, heard tales of the ‘New World’, travelled and came to Chile, writing ‘La Araucana’ – the great epic poem of the Spanish attempt of the conquest of Southern Chile. The war of the time shaped the economics, politics and social life of Chile for centuries, still echoing in the struggles of the Mapuche people today.

It was during the reign of King George IV, that Great Britain recognised the independence of Chile, in which Admiral Thomas Cochrane and others previously of the Royal Navy, also played a significant part. In 1823, George Canning, then Foreign Secretary, appointed the first Consul General, Christopher Nugent to Chile. Canning saw the importance of opening up links with Latin America, supporting independence and encouraging commercial relations.

In 1925, during his visit to Chile, the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, and uncle to Queen Elizabeth II, laid the foundation stone of a memorial to George Canning in Santiago, akin to the one that also stands in Parliament Square in London. A book of the visit profiles the Chile of the time and the world in which, in 1926, Queen Elizabeth was born.

Images of Edward, as Prince of Wales and other images of the Royal Family adorn the walls of the 11th Company, George Garland - the fire company in Valparaíso. Together with the British and Commonwealth Fire and Rescue Company, J A S Jackson, 14th Fire Company, Santiago, these volunteer fire companies proudly display the Union Jack and have participated in many Royal visits, showing their strong historic links with British communities in Chile. His Majesty The King is seen here in 2009 during his visit as Prince of Wales to Valparaíso.

From: 11th Company, George Garland – @11thfireco

Both HRH Prince William, the Prince of Wales and HRH Catherine, the Princess of Wales separately undertook Raleigh International expeditions in 2000 and 2001 respectively, in the southern part of Chile.

As Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Chile 2014-2018, I was very honoured to represent The Queen and the UK Government. Part of my time in Chile included the visit of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex in 2014 and HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex in 2017. I was also fortunate to participate in the visit of HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal in 2018 during the Armada de Chile bicentenary celebrations. In 2015 the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, played a leading role by videolink and sent his personal representative to the international ‘Our Ocean’ conference, hosted by Chile. His words illustrated the strong and important links on environmental issues, which further built on a visionary speech during his earlier visit in 2009, with his wife Camilla, now Her Majesty The Queen Consort; and continued through UK and Chile’s partnership on COP25 in 2019 and COP26 in 2021 to address climate change.

In celebration of his mother’s 90th birthday, in 2016 the then Prince Charles drew on the words of Shakespeare, written in tribute to the first Queen Elizabeth:

She shall be, to the happiness of England, An aged princess; many days shall see her, And yet no day without a deed to crown it.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in her long years of service, undertook many deeds, which have given us much happiness and served as an inspiration to us all. A highlight of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations was the Horse Show at Windsor, including the participation of the Chilean Huasos, who had also performed in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and returned again to the UK to the Olympia Horse Show in 2017, illustrating great Chilean horsemanship and some of the folklore traditions of Chile.

2018 also marked the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s visit to Chile in 1968. This was oft commented upon, alongside general interest in the Royal Family and their role in the UK. As part of one of the final receptions I held in Chile, for the visit of the Lord Mayor of London, Chile’s distinguished diplomat Don Mariano Fontecilla de Santiago Concha, very kindly arranged for the display of material from the visit of the Queen, including the thank you letter from Her Majesty to President Frei (see )

When I was appointed as Ambassador, I had the honour to meet Her Majesty, and she spoke of her visit to Chile. The formal commission, personally signed by The Queen, included promoting ‘relations of friendship’ and ‘good understanding’ between ‘Our Realm and the Republic of Chile’. This is also at the core of the Anglo Chilean Society which aims to promote understanding of Chile in the UK and to support charitable initiatives in Chile. On 8 September 2022 it was good to be part of the Society at such a pivotal moment for the UK. The Society has received many messages about the loss of the Queen and much appreciates the letter from the Ambassador of Chile, on behalf of the Government of Chile. We all look forward to building further understanding and links for the future.

Fiona Clouder Chairman, Anglo Chilean Society

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