TAMPA, Fla. - The longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II passed away Thursday after spending 70 years on the throne. Among her worldly travels, the Queen made a visit to Tampa more than 30 years ago.
As many in the Tampa Bay area slept, the Queen's yacht headed for Harbor Island in 1991. People came out in boats, stood at the water's edge and gathered on shore to see the royal yacht dock in Tampa.
Queen Elizabeth II along with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived aboard the Britannia. The royal couple was escorted throughout the city by Tampa's mayor at the time, Sandy Freedman.
"You could just tell she was very down to earth, and she connected with people, and she did look them in the eye," Freedman said while reflecting on the Queen's visit. "You meet a lot of famous people, and they're looking over their shoulder and who they're going to meet next. And she wasn't like that at all."
The former Tampa mayor said Queen Elizabeth was an incredible role model for women.
"It's hard to relate to her, because she was the Queen of England. However, she was a mother, and she went through all the trials and tribulations," Freedman said.
They traveled by motorcade under tight security, and their first big stop: The University of Tampa.
The Queen visits The University of Tampa
After a quick stroll down Franklin Street, it was off to Plant Hall at The University of Tampa. Queen Elizabeth attended a reception at the university, where guests had one of the best glimpses of Her Majesty during the historic trip.
Guests at the reception arrived more than an hour beforehand to see — and hopefully meet — the royals.
During their visit to the college, the royal couple was also presented with a crystal palm tree as Tampa's gift to the queen. It was even inscribed to Her Majesty.
"Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for this marvelous present and for the very warm welcome, which we have received from the people of Tampa Bay," Queen Elizabeth said to the crowd of guests gathered at The University of Tampa. "We are delighted to be here."
The purpose behind Queen Elizabeth's trip
Queen Elizabeth's main purpose for the visit to Tampa was to bestow an honor on General Norman Schwarzkopf and his wife at MacDill Air Force Base. He was head of Central Command at MacDill at the time.
The Queen was only in Tampa for two and a half hours, but the preparations for her visit were weeks in the making for the city.
"Everybody wanted to see her, everybody wanted to get a glimpse of her. Of course a monarch had never come to Tampa before, at least of that stature," Rodney Kite-Powell with the Tampa Bay History Center told FOX 13.
After her visit at MacDill Air Force Base, she departed by a Concorde supersonic plane from the military base to her next destination, which was Austin, Texas, Kite-Powell said. Tampa was part of a two-week trip that the royal couple took to the United States.
"Because of the Gulf War and because of MacDill's role and conflicts in the Middle East, it was really important," Kite-Powell said. "It was one of those things back in 1991, Tampa was still a very small city, and we were still trying to find our way and find our place within the country and our status with the country. It was a big deal having Queen Elizabeth come here."