- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

5:07 p.m.

RICHMOND (AP) — The last time Queen Elizabeth II helped Virginia mark the anniversary of its Colonial founding, it was an all-white affair in a still-segregated state. Thursday’s visit is starkly different.

The British monarch, in her first visit to the former Confederate capital, will salute American Indians, a venerated civil rights lawyer and dozens whose lives were scarred by last month’s massacre at Virginia Tech.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said the message could not be more timely or appropriate.

“This is a moment that brings Virginia together. That will be very apparent on Capitol Square today, with folks from all over Virginia coming together for this remarkable moment and coming in the aftermath of a hard time,” Kaine said Thursday at a news conference.

The plane carrying the 81-year-old queen landed by mid-afternoon, and 20 minutes later she emerged with her husband, Prince Phillip.

Hundreds of people stood in lines for hours in a cool drizzle, some since dawn, to enter the grounds of the freshly refurbished 219-year-old Capitol.

The queen’s visit is part of Virginia’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement.

“How often do you get to see the reigning monarch, much less in your own town?” said Keith Gary, the first spectator through the gates when they opened more than four hours before the queen and Prince Philip’s arrival.

The queen’s speech to Virginia’s General Assembly was to be the first address by Britain’s crown to the lawmaking body it chartered in 1619 at Jamestown as the Colonial House of Burgesses.

Inside the Capitol, she was scheduled to meet briefly with construction workers whose $105 million, two-year renovation was completed Monday, with high school student body leaders and with 100-year-old Oliver W. Hill.

Hill, whose birthday was Tuesday, is a civil rights attorney whose litigation helped bring about the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools.

When the queen visited Jamestown for its 350th anniversary in 1957, such a meeting was impossible because the state was defying federal desegregation orders.

“We didn’t tell everybody’s story, we didn’t include everyone, we didn’t honor all the accomplishments. We didn’t acknowledge that the progress came at a cost and there was huge pain along the way,” Kaine said. “This time, we have a chance to really get it right.”

Ralph Earnhardt, a tourism volunteer supervising one of the Capitol Square entrances, recalled seeing the queen on her previous visit to Jamestown when she was 31 and he was a high school sophomore.

“As a student, I thought all monarchs were supposed to be old. She struck me as young and lovely and quite regal,” Earnhardt said. “She is still regal.”

Before she departs for Williamsburg, the queen will meet privately with some of those wounded in the Virginia Tech shooting and the families of some of the 32 slain.

“The queen has expressed her desire to have some interaction with the Virginia Tech community so she can extend her support to it, which I really, really appreciate,” Kaine said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide