Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


09 September 2022

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A black and white image of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip arriving at Rhodes House
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrive at Rhodes House in 1953

All of us at Rhodes House heard the news of the Queen’s death with great sadness, and would like to express our condolences to the Royal family on behalf of the community of the Rhodes Trust, including the Rhodes Scholarships, the Schmidt Science Fellows Programme, the Atlantic Institute and the Rise Programme. Our thoughts are with them.

Her Majesty’s unwavering commitment to service over so many years was, and is, inspiring and we pay tribute to the leading role she played in the world throughout her life. She was a remarkable woman.

We are so grateful for the support, interest and encouragement Her Majesty showed for our community over many years. Her Majesty warmly welcomed Scholars from many countries and generously helped celebrate some of our landmark anniversaries and developments in our community, meeting Rhodes Scholars, Staff and Trustees and helping mark the launch of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation nearly 20 years ago.

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip first visited Rhodes House in 1953 when the community came together to celebrate fifty years of the Scholarship. Many Scholars fondly remember the Queen’s subsequent visit to Rhodes House in Oxford in 1983, when Her Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Philip were again kind enough to join Scholars and Staff during our 80th anniversary celebrations.

The Queen joined around 850 Scholars and 650 partners for a garden party to mark the occasion. Kenneth Banta (Massachusetts & University 1979), reporting on the event for TIME magazine at the time, observed the Queen stroll amiably ‘through a riot of improbable hats and tropical colours rivalling those at Ascot’.

An image of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip being greeted at Rhodes House in 1983
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are greeted at Rhodes House in 1983

In 2003 Her Majesty hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace to mark the centenary of the Rhodes Trust and to celebrate the formation of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, which was attended by Rhodes Scholars and Staff, and Trustees of the Rhodes Trust and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Mary Eaton, Registrar and Director of Scholar Affairs, was among those who attended. Mary recalls: “I remember well the excitement as all Scholars in Residence boarded the four or five coaches bound for tea at Buckingham Palace.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth herself and the Duke of Edinburgh greeted each Scholar individually as they arrived. As you would expect, and despite the extraordinary surroundings, Scholars were not over-awed, rather engaged, interested and curious.

“I heard that the Queen, the Duke and all her attendants enjoyed the occasion, the latter remarking on the refreshing openness and naturalness of those present.  Other guests were few, but included Nelson Mandela, Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton. The honour and privilege of the invitation was felt deeply by all.”

A set of three images showing Queen Elizabeth greeting Rhodes scholars, Rhodes personnel, and Nelson Mandela
The centenary celebrations for the Rhodes Scholarship at Buckingham Palace in 2003 which also marked the establishment of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II greets Rhodes Scholar Muloongo Muchelemba (left), Nelson Mandela (centre) and Bob Wyllie, former Head Porter of Rhodes House, and his wife Dawn Wyllie (right)

Muloongo Muchelemba (Zambia & Harris Manchester 2002) was among the Scholars who met Her Majesty, The Duke of Edinburgh and Nelson Mandela at the event which she describes as “one of the best days of my life”. She says: “It’s funny how people you don’t know personally can mean so much. The Queen may have had eight blood grandchildren but she really felt like a grandmother to people like me across the UK, Commonwealth and the rest of the world who truly loved and respected her for her unwavering dedication to serving God and country. Her sense of duty and her philosophy of “never complain, never explain” was the very definition of humility. I wish I could be more like her.

“I am heartbroken at her passing and only take comfort in the fact that she and her beloved husband of 73 years will be reunited in death after 517 days apart.”

We thank the many Rhodes Scholars who submitted recollections after this piece was first published. These moving accounts can be read below.

Monazza Aslam (Pakistan & Wolfson 2000) shared her recollection of meeting Her Majesty: "I was one of the lucky Rhodes Scholars invited to meet Her Majesty in 2003 at Buckingham Palace alongside my husband (I was expecting my first child then and she likes to say that she was there too!). She left a lasting impression on us both - an epitome of grace, dignity and humility, an example of true leadership. Farewell dear Queen."

Lee Saperstein (Montana & Queen's 1964) recalls meeting Her Majesty the Queen at the 80th anniversary of the Rhodes Scholarship in 1983. "To greet Scholars, the Queen and Prince Philip walked in the gardens of Rhodes House (against Parks Road) between two ropes laid out in concentric circles (imagine the edges of a doughnut) with about half of the Scholars inside the inner circle (the doughnut hole) and the rest of us outside.  The Queen circulated around the inner rope greeting those in the inner circle and Prince Philip went around the outside.  Mort and Eileen Kahan and I and Priscilla were greeted kindly but somewhat gruffly by the Prince.  “And what is it that you do?” asked the Prince of Mort."

A picture from 1983 of Rhodes Scholar Afzal Mufti meeting Queen Elizabeth II
Afzal Mufti meets Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during a garden party at the 1983 reunion of Rhodes Scholars. Hillary Clinton is visible to his left.

Afzal Mufti (Pakistan & St Peter's 1967) made a note of his conversation with HM The Queen during her 1983 visit and shares it with us below:

HM: It must be nice to come back after all these years?
Me: Yes and no your Majesty.
HM: Oh, why is that?
Me: I am not happy with some of the new buildings in Oxford.
HM: Well I thought they have done a good job in Oxford with modern architecture.
Me: On the whole of course Ma’am, but my college hasn’t done a good job.

Then as she was about to move away, I piped up ‘Ma’am I was presented to you when I was a young Boy Scout’. She stopped and asked:

HM: When was that?
Me: At the Boy Scouts Jubilee Jamboree at Sutton Coldfield in 1957.
HM Seemed to think for a moment and then said, ‘I do remember that, it was a very wet summer and the camp was soaked’. Then she asked very sweetly, ‘what do you do now?’
Me: I work for the Asian Development Bank in Manila Ma’am.
HM: Well done, good luck to you.

The Warden told me later that the Queen was pleased with the exchange and commented, ‘what a nice young man’.

A black and white image of a crowd gathering to greet Queen Elizabeth II
A crowd gathers to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Boudewyn Van Oort (Ontario & University 1961) shared this wonderful photograph with us, adding “I had a nice chat with the Queen that day”.

A personal photograph of Rhodes scholar Julian Heyes in a light suit shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II

Julian Heyes (New Zealand & University 1980) remembers that when he and his wife Jane met the Queen and Prince Philip during the 1983 celebrations, “we learned the appropriate form of address, how to pronounce ‘ma’am’, and not to speak unless spoken to. Jane mastered a curtsey and we came away impressed with their humanity and skill in putting people at ease with a few well chosen words.

“My mother was extremely grateful for the bragging rights that ensued and this photo remained on her china cabinet until she died last year.”

Image left: Julian Heyes and his wife Jane meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during the 1983 celebrations.

Bob O’Neill (Australia & Brasenose 1961) was also present at the Queen’s and Prince Phillip’s visit to Rhodes House in 1983. “It was a great occasion and we were all pleased and honoured that the Royal couple took part. So we miss Her Majesty all the more following her death, but she is a wonderful example for Rhodes Scholars to think about as they plan the directions that their later lives might follow.”

A colour image of Queen Elizabeth II meeting a row of traditionally-dressed people at Lahore airport
Athar Tahir receives Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Lahore Airport. She is interacting with Dr Samia Malik, his wife (in purple), who stands on his right.

Athar Tahir (Pakistan & Oriel 1974) and his wife, Dr Samia Malik met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on many occasions. He says “It is a personal loss. She was a monarch I cherish the memory of meeting several times. The first when she visited Oriel College and Provost Turpin presented me to her and the late Duke of Edinburgh, in 1976. Next as a diplomat when our High Commissioner presented his credentials and I accompanied him.

“My wife, and I met her at one of the two Garden parties in Buckingham Palace's rear lawn. Another meeting and a short exchange at the glittering Royal Ball was memorable.

“We subsequently met her several more times when she visited Lahore in 1997 at the golden jubilee of Pakistan's Independence. I was Commissioner of the Lahore Division and supervised various arrangements. Samia and I received her at the airport and were presented to her at the Governor House. I gifted her a copy of my coffee-table book of paintings of historic buildings and monuments, Lahore Colours.

“Her Majesty's natural grace and graciousness and her radiant, spreading smile will always be treasured by both of us. May her soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.”

Dr Kiron Neale shakes hands with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Dr. Kiron Neale (Linacre & Commonwealth Caribbean 2013) recalls the moment he received an invitation to meet The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace.

"It wasn't even a full day of my being in the UK and I remember arriving in Oxford, checking in at Linacre College, and then immediately making my way to Rhodes House to meet with Mary Eaton and collect my scholarship orientation package. I remember being in Mary's office going through the documents and coming across an envelope that immediately felt different to the others. I recall Mary saying, ‘You might want to open that one...’. With a now puzzled yet intrigued expression I did, and upon opening it there was a gold-lined invitation that began with:

‘The Master of the Household has received Her Majesty's Command to invite Mr. Kiron Cornelius Neale to a Reception to be given at Buckingham Palace by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh for Youth, Education and the Commonwealth....’

“My immediate reaction was to ask Mary what this meant and was it real! Fast forward to the date of the reception and my first time going to London was not for tourism or to explore the city, but to go to Buckingham Palace. I could recall the faces of several transport officials at London Marylebone when I was asking for the advice on how best to get to Buckingham Palace – faces that were basically looking at me like: ‘Who is this guy?’.

“Thinking back to that day, I could also recall making my way through the usual tourist crowds standing outside the Palace taking pictures at its gates, walking up to the Royal Guards at the front gate with my invitation, and sensing that the nearby tourists were looking on subtly thinking: ‘What's happening today in the Palace?’.... ‘He must be special...’.

“That day was made even funnier given that I had to miss a day of classes to attend the reception, and apparently when my classmates were asked where I was during one class, they jokingly responded that I was off to meet the Queen. But upon arriving back at Oxford and joining the class just before the session ended, I could remember opening the door and walking to see my classmates' facial expressions conveying something along the lines of: "Oh, he was serious about that...".

“On a deeper and more sentimental note, that moment was so meaningful to me because the photo of Her Majesty and I shaking hands at Buckingham Palace was the last picture my dad would have seen of me before he passed away a month or so after that reception. Additionally, the memory of my mom reading nursery rhymes to me, with a common one being, ‘Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I've been up to London, to visit the Queen!’, stuck with me and upon meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to me, those moments of intimacy and love between my mom and I when I was a boy echoed across time and space, and seemed to manifest into reality as my mom could not fathom that I was meeting Her Majesty.

“Simply put, it was a 'crowning' moment of a milestone period in my life that made my introduction to the City of Dreaming Spires and being a Rhodes Scholar all the more life-defining."

Kim Mackenzie

Kim Mackenzie (Alberta & St. Peter’s, 1967) describes his memories of the garden party at Rhodes House in June 1983.

“I was very privileged to chat with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. Standing beside the cordoned walkabout route, I was surprised to see the Queen angling toward me and a tall American historian from Columbia University (the tall chap towering over everyone in the photo) to my left.

Image right: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II meeting guests in the garden of Rhodes House in 1983

“The Queen first enquired of each of us: ‘Where are you from; and what do you do there?’ I replied that I was from Edmonton, Alberta, where I practiced as an urban planner. The Queen responded: ‘That is a very good thing to be doing there, but not so good right now’, recognizing the severe economic slowdown that Alberta was experiencing as a result of the disastrous National Energy Program enacted by the Federal government. I was most impressed by the extent to which she had been informed of local circumstances.

“As the Queen turned to walk onward she stopped, and returned to me to say: ‘Edmonton! That is where Charles and Diana are today.’ I responded that the people of Edmonton were delighted for the presence of the royal couple at the World University Games being held in our city at that moment. And I felt that the personal touch of The Queen’s comment that day made the world seem a smaller and certainly more intimate place. A truly memorable occasion!”

If you would like to share your memory of meeting Her Majesty the Queen, please get in touch with us by emailing and include your Rhodes identifier.

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