Celebrating a rich and remarkable story: new book on QE’s history launched

Celebrating a rich and remarkable story: new book on QE’s history launched

A new definitive history of Queen Elizabeth’s School researched and written by former Headmaster John Marincowitz has been launched with a special celebration.

The relaxed evening event at the School drew alumni, former staff, governors and trustees, current and former parents, current boys, and other supporters of the School, as well as visitors from the local community. It was held as one of the events marking the School’s 450th anniversary.

There were opportunities for people to have their copies of Queen Elizabeth’s School 1573-2023 signed by Dr Marincowitz and to hear him in conversation with Old Elizabethan Surya Bowyer, QE’s former Curator of QE Collections, while the evening also included literary-themed musical performances, a display of archival materials and a lively audience Q&A session at the end.

The volume charts QE’s story from its earliest days following its founding by Elizabeth I in 1573, through centuries that saw wars, plagues and pandemics, recurring national education reforms and, in 1932, a change of location, through to its present status as one of England’s leading schools.

All profits from the sale of the book will go to The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s (FQE) for reinvestment into the School.

Current Headmaster Neil Enright said: “It was a great evening and it was wonderful to welcome so many guests, including Mike Noronha, Curator at Barnet Museum – the museum was generous in its support for John during his research, supplying both images and information.

“It was fascinating to learn more about what John had uncovered through his research about this remarkable School’s rich history. His work has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the School and the context in which it has evolved over the centuries.

“The event really helped bring stories from QE’s past to life and provided us all with great inspiration to delve fully into the book.

“It was, of course, particularly fitting that we could hold the launch event in March, since our School was founded 450 years ago this month, in 1573.

“Moreover, I was encouraged that when asked, John was fully confident that the School would still be thriving in its current location in 50 years’ time for the 500th anniversary!”

As guests arrived, Year 12 pianist Danylo Gutsulyak played. There was then time to peruse the display of archival material before a piano quartet of Faaiz Adil (Year 9), Jack Tan (Year 9), Neelesh Fotedar (Year 8) and Lewis Wong (Year 8) played Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, arranged for eight hands for the audience in the Friends’ Recital Hall in the new Music building.

The display included:

  • The School’s 1573 Royal Charter;
  • 20th-century albums collated by former archivist Rosemary Baldwin,
  • Examples of School uniform;
  • Boards showing extracts of early Governing Body minutes;
  • Access to the School’s online QE Collections archives via laptops;
  • The photo that appears upon the cover of the book;
  • Silverware presented to Harry ‘Curly’ Mayes to mark his 50 years of service to the School. He in fact served the School for 60 years in the 20th century as, variously, its butler, steward, porter and caretaker. The exhibit was chosen since the archival display was put on in the new building’s Mayes Atrium, named in his memory.

During the evening, assistance was provided by prefects and by a small number of those who have been involved with the School archives, either as part of the QE palaeography group or through Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme volunteering.

Mr Enright added: “It is splendid to see both that our own pupils are helping the digitisation, interpretation and presentation of these materials, and that boys here are now making active use of our archives, with, for example, Years 8 & 9 currently using them extensively in their own research projects.”

As the evening progressed, there were readings from the book and the discussion between Dr Marincowitz (Headmaster, 1999–2011) and Surya (OE 2007–2014).

A musical interlude featured the Senior String Quartet (Jason Tao (Year 11), David Wang (Year 11), Jao-Yong Tsai (Year 13) and Hyunwoo Kim (Year 11) performing Schubert’s Rosamunde Quartet.

During the Q&A, several audience members shared their own perspectives as former pupils from different eras. Their questions took in everything from how the master (teacher) had managed in centuries past to keep order and teach in a single space with seven different forms, to how the School might appear on its 500th anniversary in 2073.

The final musical contribution came from a second piano quartet, comprising Zeyuan Wu (Year 11), Joshua John (Year 11), Zehao Wu (Year 8) and Felix Chen (Year 8), playing Saint-Saens’s Danse Macabre, arranged for eight hands. All the musical items were selected because they were based on literary stories or plays.

Abhinav Sandeep and Chinmaya Dave, of Year 9, led the video-recording of the launch: it will in due course be made available online for those unable to attend.