It was one of the most anticipated, watched and lauded moments of the 20th century but an invitation to Buckingham Palace to send a congratulatory text marking the first Moon landing was labelled a gimmick by courtiers. Documents just released by the National Archives reveal that the Queen had her own reservations about sending a royal message to the Moon in July 1969.
As final preparations for the mission were made, Heads of State around the world were invited to write their own words of celebration which were then placed on a disk carried by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as Apollo 11 headed into space, and history. However, research by Dr Juliette Desplat, who is head of modern overseas, intelligence and security records at the National Archives, shows that Buckingham Palace was far from keen on the idea.
A note from Michael Adeane, who was the Queen’s private secretary at the time, shows the idea wasn’t top of the regal to do list. He wrote ”“Her Majesty agrees that this idea is a gimmick and it is not the sort of thing she much enjoys doing but she certainly would not wish to appear churlish by refusing an invitation which is so obviously well intentioned.”
And so the Queen put pen to paper and sent her own message which became one of 72 carried to the Moon. The Queen’s message read ”“On behalf of the British people, I salute the skills and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this endeavour increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind.”
That disk was then carried on to the Moon by Armstrong and Aldrin on July 20th 1969 while Michael Collins kept Apollo 11 in orbit ready for the crew’s return to Earth.
The royal notes around the lunar landing are featured in an exhibition at the National Archives which is taking place to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and a half century since man first stepped on the Moon.