Prince Philip’s visit to Luton Hoo

PRINCE Philip’s heart problems were a major feature of news bulletins over Christmas, but he was making headlines in the Luton News nearly 56 years earlier.

Saturday, 31st December 2011, 8:47 am

He and the Queen were celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary with friends Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher at Luton Hoo.

The royal couple spent part of their honeymoon and several subsequent anniversaries as guests of the Wernhers at the stately home.

And it became traditional during their weekend stays to take part in a shoot on the estate and travel the short distance to St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton, to join the congregation at the Sunday morning service.

Large crowds always gathered for these occasions and our picture shows enthusiastic onlookers lining the pavements in Church Street as the Queen and Prince Philip were driven back to the Hoo after the church service in November 1955.

In the background are the cooling towers of the electricity works. Can readers recall when these huge structures were demolished?

The first Luton Hoo wedding attended by members of the then royal family was in 1917 when diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher’s son, Sir Harold, married Anastasia ‘Zia’ de Torby, great-granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas 1st of Russia. Lady Zia was the great-great-granddaughter of the poet Pushkin and her Russian aristocrat father, Grand Duke Michael, was related to virtually every royal family in Europe.

Luton Hoo became the setting for countless glittering balls and weekend house parties and Sir Harold and Lady Zia formed a close friendship with the British royal family. The Queen, Prince Philip and other members of the royal family, including the Queen Mother, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Edward, attended various Wernher family weddings.

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, joined the Queen and Prince Philip at the Hoo when he celebrated his 60th birthday.

Prince Philip was godfather to Sir Harold and Lady Zia’s late grandson, Nicholas Phillips. Part of the estate was sold to Elite Hotels and Luton Hoo Hotel opened in 2008. Some of the lavish rooms where the royal couple stayed form part of the Queen Elizabeth State Suite.