Queen Elizabeth II’s 1991 visit to Miami leaves a lasting impression

MIAMI – On May 17, 1991, Queen Elizabeth II and husband Prince Philip touched down at Miami International Airport in a chartered Concorde, kicking off a visit to South Florida—and WPLG was there to cover it.

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch died Thursday after 70 years on the throne.

Then-Gov. Lawton Chiles and then-Mayor Xavier Suarez, father of current Mayor Francis Suarez, greeted the monarch ahead of a visit to Booker T. Washington Middle School in Overtown and the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.

“She was all grace, just a wonderful human being,” said Suarez. “I don’t know anybody who said anything negative about the queen.”

“I was the only person who could hear what was happening because I was right next to her,” he said.

After visiting Coconut Grove Elementary, one of the students asked her, “How long have you been queen?” and she said, “You know what, I’m going to let you look it up in the history books.”

From Vizcaya, the queen traveled to the royal yacht for an intimate dinner party and reception that included former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Suarez was among those on board.

Despite all the famous protocol surrounding interactions with the queen, Suarez remembers her as down-to-earth and kind.

“She was very gracious, very easygoing,” said Suarez. “Almost like, almost like your neighbor, and in many ways, it was like your neighbor.”

About the Authors:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.

Ryan Mackey is our newest digital journalist at WPLG. He is New York born and South Florida raised.