Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, left a profound impact on many people in the Golden State. Susan Maxwell Skinner, who lives in Sacramento County, remembers her time covering the Queen as a member of the Buckingham Palace press corps from 1980 to 1988.

“She’s the only queen I have known,” Skinner said. “Remember when she was first crowned? She wasn’t this little old lady with wrinkles and flat shoes. She was this glamorous young mom with a husband who looked like a Greek god.”

Skinner recalls Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip’s visit to California, which was part of a 10-day tour of the West Coast in 1983. The late royal couple arrived in San Diego, where they were greeted by President Reagan.

“Because governor Reagan was a tall man, the podium was set to his height, so he gave a speech of welcome and the queen came up to the podium and the only thing you could see was her hat and the press recorded the occasion the next day as the hat that spoke,” Skinner noted.

Along the way, she met with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, several other local, state and national members of the government, as well as Hollywood royalty Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick.

After San Diego, the royal couple made their way up to Los Angeles, where they met with former mayor Tom Bradley and attended a star-studded event in Hollywood.

“Those were quite different times. Back then, the Queen traveled as an ambassador for Britain and for the monarchy and the atmosphere back then was everybody having a wonderful time. Frank Sinatra even hosted a party for her,” Skinner added.

Finally, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip went up to Northern California, visiting San Francisco and Sacramento. 


During her time in Sacramento, she was met by thousands of spectators who gathered outside the State Capitol to catch a glimpse of her majesty. Senator Jim Nielsen, who retired from the legislature last month, met the queen when she visited the Capitol.

The royals also visited Yosemite National Park, which Skinner remembers the Queen greatly appreciating the natural beauty of Yosemite. She says, despite the Queen seeing all the beautiful places in the world, Yosemite left her awestruck.

California leaders paid their respect to the Queen after learning of her passing. Senator Dianne Feinstein tweeted a photo of her meeting the Queen during her visit, when Feinstein was the mayor of San Francisco. 

Along with the photo, Feinstein said, “I spent time with the queen at the Davies Symphony Hall and found her to be gracious and kind, a wonderful representative of her nation.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom also paid his respects to the queen. “Never having expected to become Queen, she nevertheless embraced her duty to serve, joining the armed services during World War II and pledging on her twenty-first birthday to devote her life to the nation and the Commonwealth,” Newsom said. 

Skinner adds Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip leave behind a legacy that will last forever.

“They captured the excitement of the world wherever they went. They were so beautiful and engaged and animate and such good parents. After WWII, they were this breath of fresh air and sunlight that everyone wanted,” Skinner said.

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