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News 8 Throwback: Queen Elizabeth’s visit to San Diego in 1983

On February 26, 1983, Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip came to San Diego aboard HMY Britannia visiting Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Old Globe & the zoo.

SAN DIEGO — On February 26, 1983, Queen Elizabeth II landed on San Diego's shores aboard Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia. The Queen of England and Prince Philip had a full schedule while in town. Some of the royals’ local stops included Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Old Globe, and the San Diego Zoo. We dug up our coverage of the queen’s first visit to California in the News 8 archives. You can binge the clips – just like you would “The Crown” on Netflix - above or explore them individually below.   

Do you remember Queen Elizabeth’s visit to San Diego 37 years ago?  

It was a rainy San Diego morning on February 26, 1983, and News 8 reporter Carlos Amezcua was on hand as people crowded Broadway Pier to catch a glimpse of the Queen of England. Her Majesty emerged to the sound of cheers and photos being snapped. The queen's visit to San Diego marked the beginning of a 10-day trip across the state of California - a first for Queen Elizabeth.  

Among Queen Elizabeth’s San Diego stops was a visit to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger where she was given an emblem of the ship's bell. Her Majesty along with Prince Philip had lunch on the Ranger following a brief tour before it was on to their next stop: Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  

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Just as in all the other spots she visited, a crowd gathered to catch a glimpse of the Queen of England and Prince Philip at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The royal couple's interest in marine science drew them to Scripps and the queen specifically requested a stop at the aquarium where they observed a sea lion. Next up for the duo: the Old Globe Theatre and other locations in Balboa Park.  

The queen made several stops within Balboa Park and even unveiled the Old Globe Theatre's new statue of William Shakespeare. Local dignitaries then escorted Queen Elizabeth to the San Diego Museum of Art where she was presented with a book of photographs and a key to the city by Deputy Mayor Bill Cleator.  

Fun fact: Cleator became known for a faux pas he committed during the queen’s visit. He was criticized after touching Queen Elizabeth’s back while trying to guide her during a tour which is against royal protocol.  

Meanwhile, New 8’s Bridget Asaro reported as Prince Philip visited the San Diego Zoo where he was given a tour and honored with the zoo's conservation medal "for his service and dedication to wildlife." The royals were about seven hours into their San Diego visit but their California trip was far from over. 

Queen Elizabeth’s visit, of course, drew attention from journalists near and far. News 8’s Liz Pursell reported that over 700 reporters and photographers descended on San Diego for the event. Those covering the queen’s trip came from Great Britain, Australia, France, Canada, Mexico, and Italy. As the queen and Prince Philip continued on their California journey over 2,000 reporters were expected to follow along to report on the trek.  

To finish off her trip, the Queen of England hosted a dinner aboard her yacht. Many locals drove near the harbor or got out with binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of the ship and its queen. News 8's John Culea spoke with some San Diegans excited by the royal visit - and tried to speak with petty officers from the ship who weren't able to tell our reporter much. 

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