Queen Elizabeth II is known for making an annual visit to the Women’s Institute at West Newton near her Sandringham estate in Norfolk. The Queen started to attend meetings back in 1943, taking over as President from the Queen Mother who had taken over the role from Queen Mary. But what exactly is the link between the Royal Family and the Women’s Institute?
First founded in Canada, the Women’s Institute started in a garden shed in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales in 1915. The organisation’s main aim was to help revitalize rural communities and encourage women to produce food during World War I. Since then, the organisation has grown to more than 6,300 local chapters aimed at providing women with educational opportunities and chances to become involved with local charities.
Queen Elizabeth II started attending meetings at the Sandringham branch in 1943 when she was known as Princess Elizabeth. According to the group’s vice president, she’s only missed “four or five” meetings since joining. The Queen isn’t the only member of the institute, the Countess of Wessex joined the Bagshot WI in 2007. The Princess Royal is an associate member while the Duchess of Cornwall is a member of Tetbury WI, Gloucestershire.Embed from Getty Images
In 2015, The Queen spoke on the Institute’s centenary:
“Women have been granted the vote, British women have climbed Everest for the first time and the country has elected its first female prime minister. The Women’s Institute has been a constant throughout, gathering women together, encouraging them to acquire new skills and nurturing unique talents.”
In the same year, 2015, The Duchess of Cambridge was invited to join the WI in Anmer, the village close to where the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge live while in Norfolk. The local WI president, Dorothy Pulsford-Harris said of the Duchess at the time:
“We wanted to inform her about Anmer WI and invite her to be a member. I had a letter back from her private secretary to say that she had been interested to read the program and letter, “said Pulsford-Harris.
The Duchess of Kent was a previous royal resident of Anmer WI.
The Queen’s January 2020 meeting with the institute at Sandringham was canceled due to The Queen having a cold at the time.