Queen celebrates first 'virtual' Chelsea Flower Show with throwback family photos

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Queen Elizabeth II is shown around 'Back to Nature' by Prince William and Kate in 2019. (Getty Images)

The Queen has shared throwback photos of the Chelsea Flower Show, as the event moves online during the coronavirus pandemic.

Her Majesty is a patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, which runs the gardening show each year, and her and her family have been regular attendees over the years.

This year the show has been forced to move online to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among crowds of people.

Ahead of its first virtual event, the Queen shared a trio of black and white pictures of her enjoying the show during the 1950s, not long after she acceded to the throne.

In a message, the 94-year-old said: “On the occasion of the Opening of the Virtual Chelsea Flower Show 2020, I send my best wishes to all those associated with the Royal Horticultural Society.

“My family and I have always enjoyed visiting the Show, and I know that your Members and Supporters will be disappointed that they are unable to attend in person this year.

“As Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, I was pleased to hear that you will be providing gardening advice and virtual sessions on your website, from Monday 18th to Saturday 23rd May.

“I am sure that my grandmother, Queen Mary, who first attended the Chelsea Flower Show in 1916, would be delighted that many people today have an enthusiasm for horticulture, and that gardening remains a popular past time in the United Kingdom.

“As you adapt to the present circumstances, I hope you find this unique event enjoyable and interesting.”

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King George V and Queen Mary at the Chelsea Flower Show, in the 1930s. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (far right) admiring the rock garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, in 1952 - before her father's death. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II on a tour of the Chelsea Flower Show in 1973. (Getty Images)

Responding to the message, the Royal Horticultural Society posted on Twitter: “Her Majesty The Queen would be with us at #RHSChelsea today.

“We are honoured that we have Her Majesty’s best wishes for the RHS Virtual Chelsea Flower Show.”

Last year her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, designed a ‘Back to Nature’ garden, which she hoped would encourage children to play outside.

The Queen first attended the show as the monarch in 1955, and has attended most years since.

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The Queen plants a tree at the show in 1988. (Getty Images)
The Queen with gardener Alan Titchmarsh in 2007. (FilmMagic)
Queen Elizabeth II presents Prince Charles with the Royal Horticultural Society's Victoria Medal of Honour in 2009. (Getty Images)
The Queen takes a tour in her Diamond Jubilee year, in 2012. (GettyImages)
The Queen meets baking queen Mary Berry at the 2017 show. (Getty Images)

Her son Prince Charles also regularly visits the show, and his former wife Princess Diana frequently attended.

The late Princess Margaret visited some of the shows with her sister, and the pair attended with their parents, King George V and Queen Elizabeth as young women.

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The Queen is thought to have missed only two of the shows over the years, both because she was on overseas visits at the time.

Former shows director, Stephen Bennett previously told The Telegraph Her Majesty is “incredibly knowledgeable” perhaps inheriting a love of gardening from her mother.

Speaking about the royals, Bennett said: “The Princess of Wales was a huge media attraction, of course.

“Didn’t know much about gardening - she was there to support a charity of which she was patron - but she laughed when I raised an eyebrow at her high heels.

“At that point, she was sinking into the lawn.”

Diana at the show in 1984. (Getty Images)
William and Kate visiting in 2016. (Getty Images)
Chris Evans with Kate at his Radio 2 garden in 2017. (Getty Images)

He also said even Prince Harry had been bitten by the Chelsea bug. His charity Sentabale has previously had gardens on display at the show.

In 2019, a new chrysanthemum named Archie Harrison was displayed at the show in honour of his son.

The Royal Family has had a connection to the show since its first event was opened by Queen Alexandra, the monarch’s great grandmother, in 1913, and more than 100 years later, the relationship is going strong.