Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visits Seattle's Century 21 Exposition on June 1, 1962.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 6/08/2011
  • Essay 9844

On June 1, 1962, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) visits Seattle, where he embarks on a whirlwind tour of the Century 21 Exposition and various locations throughout the city. During his visit, many fairgoers are captivated by the prince's charm, poise, and droll humor.

Flying In

Prince Philip flew into Boeing Field at 11:27 a.m. on June 1, 1962, piloting his own Royal Air Force Heron II. He traveled from Kamloops, British Columbia, where the prince had spent four days resting at a ranch after attending a Commonwealth Industrial Study Conference in Montreal.

As Prince Philip deplaned, he was greeted by Saeed Kahn, protocol officer for the Century 21 Exposition, who introduced him to Governor Albert D. Rosellini (1910-2011) and his wife Ethel (1912-2002). The welcoming party also included Seattle Mayor Gordon Clinton (1920-2011) and his wife Florence (1919-2012); Century 21 President Joe Gandy (1904-1971) and his wife Laurene; Kenneth J. Burbridge, consul general of Canada in Seattle; Geoffrey H. S. Jackson (1915-1987), British consul in Seattle; and Her Majesty's ambassador to the United States, Sir David Ormsby Gore (1918-1985), and Lady Ormsby Gore (1922-1967).  

After less than five minutes of introductions and greetings, the prince was escorted to a tan convertible -- the second automobile in a nine-car caravan. As they left Boeing Field, the cars slowed down so that the prince could wave to approximately 150 people lined up near the terminal, hoping to catch a glimpse of His Royal Highness. One woman cried out, "There you go, Phil boy!"

So Much to See 

When the prince arrived at the Century 21 Exposition, the Space Needle carillon played "God Save The Queen," as he was whisked to the U.S. Science Pavilion. Inside, he was escorted by exhibit director Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus (1911-1998), and deputy director Craig Colgate Jr., and although the prince was only able to spend less than 15 minutes inside the building, he showed a keen interest in the exhibits, and asked many questions. 

From there, he and his entourage traveled to the British Pavilion, where trumpeters blew fanfares as the prince entered. Inside, he noticed a model of a British Hovercraft and remarked that he was one of the few people licensed to fly the craft, which he had done. Before leaving the pavilion, he signed the guest book and briefly chatted with young staffers.  

The prince then took a quick four-minute round-trip ride on the monorail with Century 21 Exposition manager Ewen Dingwall (1913-1996) and monorail manager Sixten Holmquist. The Prince had ridden the Alweg monorail in Turin, Italy, and was very impressed with Seattle's monorail, noting that it was as much smoother ride than he had experienced in Europe.  

Time for Lunch

Prince Philip had already seen quite a bit in just over an hour, and it was time for lunch atop the Space Needle. After enjoying a gin and tonic, His Royal Highness dined on crab legs, poached salmon, and sugar-coated strawberries. The Eye of the Needle restaurant made one complete rotation during his meal, giving him a full view of the city, the mountains, and Puget Sound, to which he expressed amazement.

After lunch, the prince made brief stops inside the Coliseum, the European Community Pavilion, and the India Pavilion. Everywhere he went, the Prince kept exclaiming how wonderful everything was. Governor Rosellini later recalled that Prince Philip had the most enthusiasm of any of the fair's visitors.

Throughout his visit, the prince enjoyed cracking wry jokes, often stamping his foot after every jest. When Joe Gandy pointed the number of young boys who enjoyed ruing around the bottom of International Fountain, Prince Philip responded, “You always have trouble with small boys. I have one myself,” referring of course to Prince Charles.

Since there was no time to see every foreign display, the prince met with officials from the international exhibits that he was unable to visit, who had gathered in the Playhouse courtyard. His Royal Highness left the fairgrounds at 3:55, 10 minutes behind schedule.  

Fair Weather

From there, he went to the Seattle Yacht Club, where he boarded the barge of Rear Admiral G. C. Towner (1901-1999), commandant of the 13th Naval District, for a cruise on Lake Washington and Lake Union, as well as a trip through the Hiram Chittenden Locks to the Shilshole Marina, where he disembarked at 6:00.  

The prince was taken to the Olympic Hotel, where he had just enough time to freshen up before attending a reception held by the English Speaking Union in the hotel's Georgian Room, where a huge crowd awaited his visit. Among the guests were consul-generals of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

Speaking to the crowd, Prince Philip marveled at the delights he saw at the fair, noting that the most significant aspect of the exposition was its focus on the future. He heaped praise upon the city of the Seattle for being such gracious hosts, and joked at how surprised he was to enjoy such sunny weather.  

Comparing the sometimes wet climates of Seattle and Great Britain, the prince quipped, "Let cats and lizards rejoice in basking in everlasting sunshine, but mists and drizzles, and even occasional light rains make sunshine all the more welcome. They prevent the dreaded dehydration which shrivels the brain, makes sluggish the blood, and dims the moist and flashing eye" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 1, 1962).

Over and Out

The next morning, as if in response, a light rain greeted the prince as he continued on his fast-paced tour of the region. After a spot of tea at the Olympic Hotel, the Prince was driven to the University of Washington, where he met with Dr. Charles Odegaard (1911-1999), university president, and Dr. Frederick P. Thieme, provost. After a brief tour of the campus, the prince's party spent 45 minutes inside the university's Fisheries Center, where Prince Philip asked many questions about the department's salmon- and trout-breeding program.

The final stop on the prince's tour was at the Boeing Company plant where he witnessed many examples of the company's research into space exploration. Prince Philip was especially intrigued with a model algae farm that might be used to test plant growth in outer space.

Afterward, the prince traveled to nearby Boeing Field, where his plane awaited his inspection. After everything checked out, Prince Philip thanked everyone for their hospitality, donned a pair of sunglasses and tan leather gloves, and climbed into the pilot's seat. His Royal Highness taxied his craft down the runway, and lifted off en route to a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.


"Prince Tours Fair, Rides Monorail," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. 1; Prince to See Big Trout at U. of W.," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. 2; "Prince Philip at Fair Today," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 1, 1962, p. 9; "Prince, in King's English, Lauds Fair," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1962, p. 1; "Prince Z-Zips Through Fair," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1962, p. 1; "Duke Receives Big Reception," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1962, p. A; "Prince Get's "Jest" Desserts," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. 1; "Employee at Boeing Stumps Prince with Technical Language," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. A; "Philip's Quips Give Fillip to Seattle Visit," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. A; "Philip, Prince of Fellow, Leaves Seattle in Pilot's Seat," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1962, p. A.

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