By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
As word of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing reverberates around the world, here in Wyoming, long-time residents in the northeast part of the state recall the eventful days in October of 1984 when the Queen spent a few days with friends in Sheridan County.
On October 12, 1984, the Queen’s private jet arrived at the Sheridan airport, met by a crowd of about 300 people anxious for a chance to meet the world’s most beloved monarch. And as her entourage traveled down dusty backroads towards the Canyon Ranch, school children waved from the roadside.
As welcoming as the Wyoming people were, however, Rob Wallace – who worked for Wyoming U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop at the time – said there were a few hiccups.
Wyoming’s Royal Connection
Wallace was working at the Polo Ranch near Big Horn in October of 1984, which was owned then by Wallop. Wallop also owned the Canyon Ranch, which was the Queen’s destination for this autumn getaway.
“She was going to come out and visit the Wallops, Malcolm’s sister (Jean) in particular,” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily. “(Jean) was married to the Earl of Porchester, who was the Queen’s racing manager.”
Kendall Hartman was also working for Wallop in the mid-1980s. Her job was to help facilitate the visit from the senator’s office in Washington – which meant that she learned quite a bit about the royal connection to the Wallop family.
“(Lord Porchester) managed the Queen’s racing stables and the horse breeding and all of that,” Hartman told Cowboy State Daily. “And Jean (Wallop) married him.”
While conversing with the social attache’ from the British Embassy, Hartman learned that Senator Wallop’s royal brother-in-law was exceptionally close to the queen.
“He said, ‘No matter what you ever hear, no matter what you ever think, no matter what is out there, just know that Lord Porchester is the queen’s best friend,’” she said.
Hartman said that Wallop’s sister remained close to the queen until Jean’s death in 2019, and the queen was rumored to visit Jean frequently at their family home, Highclere Estate – which is the filming location for one of England’s most popular exports, the television show “Downton Abbey.”
Logistics of a Royal Visit
Wallace said that his task during the queen’s visit was to secure transportation for the monarch while she was in Wyoming – but he found fulfilling that order to be a bit difficult.
“My job was to see if I could locate a limousine that she could use,” he said. “And you know, in Sheridan County back in 1984, the closest thing was a hearse.”
The queen’s hosts were able to find a suitable vehicle for their royal guest, and she spent several days at the peaceful ranch – making only a couple of trips into town. But a major concern for the queen’s security detail had to do with the timing of the royal visit – in particular, the season.
As in, hunting season.
“When they were driving around looking at everything, security noticed that everybody had rifles in their vehicles,” said Paul Wallop, Malcolm’s son and the current owner of Canyon Ranch. “And (locals) said ‘Well, it’s just about hunting season.’”
“‘Well, do you think there’s any way they could postpone that?’” the royal security detail asked.
“The sheriff said, ‘Well, I could ask, but you might consider that if you do that, then the only thing that would be in season might be your queen,’” Wallop said.
Charming the Locals
On one crisp fall day in downtown Sheridan, traffic was halted so Queen Elizabeth could stroll safely into local shops.
“I think she started out at Sporting Goods,” Wallace said, “and then walked across the street to King’s Saddlery, buying knickknacks for Prince Philip and I think other people in her party.”
Wallace pointed out that a number of local onlookers had come to Wyoming as brides of soldiers who had fought in Europe during World War II.
“They showed up in their finery, with a (British) flag,” Wallace said. “And I think for that day, Sheridan County would have seceded and gone back and become part of the Commonwealth.”
Ordering Off the Menu
Wyoming was the setting for a “first” for the Queen of England – who had never before ordered off of a menu at a restaurant.
“She went to the Maverick Supper Club, which was between Sheridan and Big Horn,” said Wallace. “And it’s reported it was the first time she ever opened up a menu.”
And of course, she ordered an appropriate cut of beef for her rank and station.
“It was the queen-size filet,” said Wallace.
On the third day of her visit, Queen Elizabeth traveled to the Bradford Brinton Museum in Big Horn, where she browsed western art, posed for photographers and chatted with museum administrators and staff.
Hartman pointed out that evidence of the queen’s visit to Wyoming can still be found.
“People still talk about it,” she said. “Her photo getting off the plane is still prominently displayed at the Sheridan County Airport. Her photo is still prominently displayed in King’s Saddlery. Her presence in Sheridan has not faded away.”
“It was a pretty heady time for some kids from Wyoming to be helping plan a visit for the Queen of England,” said Wallace.