It was on November 11, 1968, 54 years ago, when a young woman, Queen Elizabeth II, set foot on Chilean soil. After her arrival at the airport in Santiago de Chile, from Brazil, she quickly moved to the Plaza de la Constitución in the Palacio de La Moneda, together with the then president Eduardo Frei Montalva. The Chileans were expectant. The city was filled with confetti, posters with her name, white handkerchiefs and thousands of people who just wanted to see her.
The visit took place four years earlier. President Frei Montalva, on an official tour of Europe, arrived in the United Kingdom and was personally received by the monarch. It was at that moment that the Chilean president officially invited her to visit the South American country, along with her husband, Duke Felipe of Edinburgh.
His Majesty toured three regions of the country. In addition to the capital, the monarch was in the Valparaíso region, visiting the National Congress, to finish her tour, together with Felipe de Edinburgh in southern Chile. The town chosen by both was Pucón, known for its great mountains and volcanoes, where the Duke also took the opportunity to go fishing in one of the many lakes in that area.
President Eduardo Frei Montalva was the one who personally received Queen Elizabeth II on her tour of Chile in 1968.
Mariano Fontecilla, who was one of the main organizers of the monarch’s tour of the country, ambassador emeritus, and then Chile’s chief of protocol for President Frei Montalva, spoke with Deutsche Welle to remember Queen Elizabeth II’s passage through the country. “The president and the queen had a very good relationship. The president accompanied her during almost her entire official visit to our country and even offered her to stay in one of the most important buildings in the country; the Palacio del Cerro Castillo de Viña del Mar, which is only used by the presidents of Chile”, he points out.
Fontecilla, somewhat nostalgic, mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II. “It is that I have the memory of a very pleasant visit, very pleasant and of special satisfaction for me, being able to have all the people of Chile around her and all the people who were enthusiastic about her visit as I never saw it again, during my entire career,” he says.
The special gift of Queen Elizabeth II
The monarch of the United Kingdom traveled on her national tour of Chile in the convertible Ford Galaxie 500 XL. The car did not go unnoticed. After her visit, Queen Elizabeth II, as a sign of gratitude, presented the vehicle to President Frei Montalva, and to this day the convertible plays a fundamental role in each presidential change of command.
Until 1970, the new elected leaders in Chile used to use carriages to greet the Chilean people at the time of taking office. However, after Her Majesty’s gift, after each inauguration the new president, he or she, travels in the Ford Galaxie 500 XL to greet his supporters. A gift that will last, despite the unfortunate loss of Queen Elizabeth II. (ng/chp)