Queen Elizabeth II on tour

Queen Victoria may have ruled over 70 territories, but she never left Europe. In contrast, today's jet-setting queen, although the head of just 16, is the most well-travelled monarch in history. Here we highlight some of the 265 official overseas visits of Elizabeth II's globe-trotting reign...

Queen In New Zealand, 1970

USA, 1951

As King George VI’s health declines, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh take his place for a tour of Canada and then Washington DC. On the visit they are warmly met by President Truman and enthusiastic crowds greet her motorcade.

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Australia, 1954

Boarding HMAS Australia, one of the cruisers that escorts the royal yacht Gothic into Sydney, during the coronation world tour. The Queen will visit nearly 70 cities and towns in 58 days on this, the first of 16 tours that she will undertake ‘down under’.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with the crew of the HMAS Australia, 1954
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with the crew of the HMAS Australia battlecruiser, near Cairns, Queensland, 13 March 1954. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Malta, 1954

With Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Lady Mountbatten, en route to watching Prince Philip play in a navy versus army polo match during her first trip to the island as Queen. It is a poignant visit: Malta is the only place outside Britain that she has called home, and she is said to have loved the freedom of her time there pre-accession, living the relatively normal private life of a newlywed naval bride.

Queen Elizabeth II in Malta, 1954
Queen Elizabeth II on tour in Malta with her family, 1954. (Photo by Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo)

India, 1961

At Ramlila Grounds outside Old Delhi, upwards of 250,000 gather to hear the Queen. Although free from crown rule for more than a decade, ties with Britain remain strong and there’s a fervent response to the visit, with vast crowds greeting her throughout the six-week tour (that also takes in Pakistan). The warm Indian welcome features lavish banquets, elephant rides, horse racing and spectacular parades.

Queen Elizabeth II in Delhi, India, 1961
Queen Elizabeth II makes a tour of inspection at a rally of the Indian National Cadet Corps, accompanied by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in Delhi, India, January 1961. (Photo by Haber/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

New Zealand, 1970

An exhibition of Maori culture in Gisborne, North Island is one highlight at the beginning of what proves to be the Queen’s most-travelled decade. It is this tour that sees the first ever royal “walkabouts,” when she breaks away from formal arrangements to walk among the crowds, chatting and accepting bouquets. Walkabouts will subsequently become a fixture of almost all royal visits.

Hong Kong, 1975

This is the first of just two visits made by the monarch to the British colony on the southern coast of China. In 1997, Prince Charles will read a farewell speech on the Queen’s behalf, as sovereignty is handed to China.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin shakes hands with Prince Charles, 1997
Chinese President Jiang Zemin (left) shakes hands with Prince Charles as British Prime Minister Tony Blair looks on, 1 July 1997. (Photo by Kimimasa Mayama/AFP via Getty Images)

South Pacific, 1982

Traditional canoes bring the Queen ashore from HMY Britannia to the remote Funafuti atoll of Tuvalu. This month’s island-­hopping itinerary also takes in the other Commonwealth realms of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Kiribati and Fiji.

Fiji, 1982

The Queen ends her month-long South Pacific tour with an inspection of the Guard of Honor at Fiji’s Nadi airport prior to leaving for London. This is the sixth visit of her reign, at a time when Fiji is still a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations. Declaring itself a republic in 1987, Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs nonetheless will continue to recognize Elizabeth II as Tui Viti or Queen of Fiji for several years.

France, 1992

In the company of President Mitterand on a four-­day visit. The Queen speaks French throughout her tour of Paris, Blois and Bordeaux – although she remains diplomatically quiet on the arguments raging around the Maastricht Treaty and European unity.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as French President Francois Mitterrand welcomes her at the Élysée Palace, Paris, 9 June 1992. (Photo by Joel Robine/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II smiles as French President Francois Mitterrand welcomes her at the Élysée Palace, Paris, 9 June 1992. (Photo by Joel Robine/AFP via Getty Images)

Malaysia, 1998

Mass protests against the long-standing Barisan Nasional government coincide with the monarch’s arrival for the Commonwealth Games. The visit – including a “courtesy call’ with the country’s prime minister – continues despite the angry clashes.

Canada, 2002

The Queen wraps up her jubilee year with a visit to the newest territory in her realm, Nunavut. Carrying on a tradition of royal trips to Canada dating back to Prince William (later William IV) in the 18th century, it is the place she has visited more than any other – 22 trips to date. The monarchy’s future there is less certain: a 2015 poll finds 39 per cent of Canadians favour its abolition after her death.

Nigeria, 2003

In her first visit since 1956 (four years before the country attained independence from Britain), and amid concerns of a possible al-Qaeda attack, the Queen’s contact with ordinary Nigerians is limited to meeting actors at a mock-up market created for a BBC soap opera.

USA, 2007

“Good morning, your Majesty.” Astronauts Sunita Williams, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov on board the International Space Station greet the Queen at NASA Goddard Space Center mission control, Maryland.

Queen Elizabeth II at NASA Goddard Space Center mission control, 2007
Queen Elizabeth II and NASA astronaut Mike Foale talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station during a tour of the NASA Goddard Space Center mission control, Maryland, 8 May 2007. (Photo by Timothy A Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Uganda, 2007

Amid security fears, the Queen visits Uganda for the first time since the days of colonial rule. Independent since 1962, the country is nonetheless rapturous in its welcome, with half a million people thronging the roadsides as she visits a centre for Aids orphans and opens the Commonwealth Heads Meeting.

Slovakia, 2008

The Queen and Prince Philip are escorted on a two-day tour by President Ivan Gasparovic. It’s the first ever royal visit to the country, which split from the former Czechoslovakia in 1993. At a banquet in her honour, the Queen speaks of Slovakia’s troubled past: “Caught behind a line dividing east from west for so long, Slovakia has now asserted its place in a common European home in less turbulent times.”

Queen Elizabeth in Slovakia, 2008
Queen Elizabeth II is accompanied by Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič (right) and Mayor of Vysoké Tatry Jan Mokos (left) during their trip to the ski resort Hrebienok, 2008. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Germany, 2015

Laying a wreath at Berlin’s Neue Wache memorial during a four-day tour that also includes a trip to the former Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. During her speech at an official state dinner (where attendees include British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel), she says: “In our lives, we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent.”

Since 2015 the Queen has not travelled abroad, instead she leaves overseas visits to her children and grandchildren. She made her final trip overseas in November 2015 when she and Prince Philip travelled to Malta ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Malta is thought to be one of the Queen’s favourite countries after the couple lived there as newlyweds. Following their marriage, the couple held a royal residence in Malta from 1949–51, where Prince Philip was stationed in the Royal Navy.

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This article was first published in BBC History Magazine’s ‘Queen Elizabeth: 90 Glorious Years’ bookazine