In 2023, we celebrated the 450th anniversary of the founding of Queen Elizabeth’s School by royal charter.

It was on 24th March 1573 that Queen Elizabeth I acceded to a request from court grandee Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and granted the charter ‘for ever to establish a Grammar School for the education[,] learning and instruction of Boys and Youth’ in the ‘Town of Barnet in the counties of Hertford and Middlesex’. A copy of this charter, stamped with the sovereign’s seal, is kept in the School’s entrance hall and displayed on special occasions.

Four hundred and fifty years after this historic event, much has, of course, changed. For more than three-quarters of its life, QE’s home was not its current Queen’s Road location – to which it moved in 1932 – but Tudor Hall in Wood Street, close to the centre of Chipping Barnet. Completed around 1577, this building (pictured top), which is today part of Barnet College, was built to house only 60-90 boys, both day pupils and boarders (or ‘foreigners’, as they were known). When QE opened, it was thus a small school in a rural market town fully a day’s journey from London. Moreover, there are indications that until the appointment of the able Richard Boyle as Master in 1599, the recruitment of pupils was somewhat slow. By contrast, today: our campus includes state-of-the-art facilities which 16th-century schoolboys could scarcely have dreamt of; we are heavily oversubscribed, with a roll that stands at around 1,300; and QE Barnet is recognised as one of the country’s leading 11-18 schools across both the state and independent sectors.

Notwithstanding the great distance in time and culture that separates the modern School from its Tudor beginnings, our rich heritage continues to provide us with inspiration in the 21st century. With their wise prescription in the charter that pupils were to be ‘instructed, brought up and taught’, our forebears laid a broad foundation that continues to serve us well: the requirement that intellectual accomplishment go hand-in-hand with the development of character underpins all that we do today and is reflected in our mission to ‘produce young men who are confident, able and responsible’.

We were keen to celebrate the significant milestone of our 450th anniversary. The start of the anniversary year was heralded by a royal visit from HRH The Duke of Gloucester in late 2022. Interest in the School’s  450-year story has been further piqued by the publication of a new definitive history of the School written by former Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz (1999-2011).

On the day of the anniversary itself, Friday 24th March 2023, a service of thanksgiving took place in Westminster Abbey. Attended by all the boys and by hundreds of others, including staff, governors, alumni and parents, it was a day to remember for the whole Elizabethan community.

Throughout the year, many of our regular events had an anniversary theme, while the anniversary was also celebrated through a series of special events and activities, including the 56th Annual Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate, competitions, tree & bulb-planting, and festivals in areas as diverse as the Sciences, Economics and rugby.