More than two decades ago, Queen Elizabeth II paid the Magic City a quick visit, creating a royal frenzy.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, talk with students in an ESL class at Miami’s Booker T. Washington Middle School on May 17, 1991.
The idea of royalty is not lost on Miami, but the definition may often get muddled in translation. We’re quick to dub anyone who looks fabulous while hosting a party the “king of nightlife” or the “queen of fashion”; we may even bow in respect to a Sir Paul McCartney or Dame Helen Mirren when they sashay into town. But Miami is more the “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece” kind of royal, the type that Lorde sings about.
However, back in May of 1991, actual royalty graced our fair city as Queen Elizabeth II spent 12 hours in Miami on her 13-day tour of the United States. The reaction was very typical of a “back-then Miami.” The local NBC affiliate ran continuous coverage and set up a phone line to update residents on the queen’s every move (this was, after all, before Twitter). Those in the know, like socialites and political bigwigs, sipped Champagne with her at Vizcaya and made their way aboard the royal yacht for a dinner reception with, among others, the Reagans and Fords.
Those not invited got as close as they could just to catch a glimpse. As The Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry pointed out, not everyone knew what to do. “It has been hilarious watching social Miami, in various stages of grovel, trying to figure out how to act in front of this short lady who never says anything,” he told The New York Times that week.
Our best representative may just have been Luz Rivera, a seventh grader who demonstrated a perfect curtsy for the queen when she visited Booker T. Washington Middle School. After all the hoopla, it was that leg of the trip that proved Miami worthy of a royal tour.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AP PHOTO/LYNNE SLADKY