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In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II sailed Lake Michigan, past Milwaukee

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Posted at 1:37 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 11:41:35-04

MILWAUKEE (NBC 26)  — Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday at her residence at Balmoral Castle. She was 96 years old.

As many people take a moment to look back on her life and legacy following her passing, it includes a moment in Wisconsin history when the British monarch visited the United States.

According to the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, Her Majesty’s Yacht, the Britannia, sailed past Milwaukee on July 7, 1959. The vessel was escorted by six destroyers. The historical society said Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were on board at the time.

While the royal couple did not step foot in Milwaukee, archive footage from TMJ4-TV shows the day the entourage sailed past the city.

Archive: In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II sailed Lake Michigan, past Milwaukee

At the time, Queen Elizabeth II was 33 years old and entering the seventh year of her reign. Her sailing past Milwaukee was part of a 45-day tour of about 15,000 miles across the British Empire, which included the Canadian providences along the Great Lakes.

The Wisconsin Marine Historical Society says after a day of festivities in Chicago, the royal couple boarded the Britannia and took the unusual course for a vessel cruising the Great Lakes by passing within sight of Milwaukee, about a mile and three quarters away from shore.

A number of small boats carrying Milwaukee residents sailed out for a closer look, the society says, despite the best efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard to keep them away. Milwaukee's fireboat at the time, called the "Deluge", even gave a "nautical salute" by launching more than 50 tons of water every minute into the air. A delegation of city leaders also came out to greet the British royalty, though neither the queen nor her husband acknowledged them, according to the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society.

The Britannia is now stored in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has become a popular tourist attraction.

Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, serving over 70 years, surpassing Queen Victoria in 2015. She was also the longest-reigning female monarch in world history.

With her death, Elizabeth’s eldest son, King Charles, becomes the British monarch.