London Zoo celebrates 70 years of Queen's patronage with 'Zoobilee'

The Queen opens the Land of the Lions at London Zoo in 2016

The Queen opens the Land of the Lions at London Zoo in 2016 - Credit: ZSL

There was fresh lobster, ox tongue sandwiches and Beaujolais Grand Cru 1947 on the menu at a special London Zoo reception to mark the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

With an orchestra playing in the penguin pavilion and a buffet on the lawn, the occasion heralded 125 years since the opening of Regent's Park Gardens, and the moment Her Royal Highness became patron of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

Ever since King George IV granted ZSL its first Royal Charter in 1829, each reigning monarch has been a Royal Patron of the Zoo.

1953 menu card from reception held for Queen Elizabeth's coronation

1953 menu card from reception held for Queen Elizabeth's coronation - Credit: ZSL

During her 70 year reign, Her Majesty has visited the Zoo often to open pavilions, exhibitions on bugs and a centre for elephant care, and  to unveil not one, but two, lion enclosures. Her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was president of ZSL's council from 1960-1977.

But long before she inherited the throne, the young Princess Elizabeth enjoyed the wonder of getting up close to animals.

1939 Princess Elizabeth visit the Penguins at London Zoo

1939 Princess Elizabeth visit the Penguins at London Zoo - Credit: ZSL

A photograph from 1939 sees the 13-year-old with the penguins in Berthold Lubetkin's pool.

In the run-up to The Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, London Zoo is inviting visitors to a week-long wildlife-themed celebration.

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The Zoobilee runs from May 28-June 5 and pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II with a new outdoor picture gallery charting the royal connection to the ZSL.

The Queen at The Zoo

2016 - HM The Queen visits London Zoo to open the Land of the Lions - Credit: ZSL

There will be regal-themed activities in the gardens including children’s storytime sessions, face-painting, lawn games and a series of four-legged visitors including alpacas Alpacaccino, Cuenca and Cookie, and the Zoo’s herd of friendly pygmy goats.

Bunting, deckchairs, and picnics and cream teas from the Terrace Restaurant lend the zoo a jubilee feel, alongside pop up Q&As with the team of expert keepers who can share such royal facts as which animals have natural "crowns" and why.

The Queen visiting London Zoo in 1990 to turn on a £300,00 elephant satellite tracking project, and

The Queen visiting London Zoo in 1990 to turn on a £300,00 elephant satellite tracking project, and to watch four Indian elephants enjoying a bath - Credit: Rebecca Naden/PA

ZSL chief operating officer Kathryn England said: “The Zoobilee Festival is a chance for us to pay tribute to our longest-serving patron while celebrating our royal history – and for our visitors to enjoy a great day out while learning about the kings and queens of the animal kingdom.

"We’ve been grateful for Her Majesty’s support throughout her reign; she has visited and opened new exhibits, met our zookeepers and veterinarians, and toured new exhibits – learning what goes on behind the scenes to care for the animals, alongside ZSL’s global conservation work.” 

Queen Elizabeth II opening the Charles Clore Pavilion at London Zoo in 1967

Queen Elizabeth II opening the Charles Clore Pavilion at London Zoo in 1967 - Credit: ZSL

For a right royal family day out this May half-term, book tickets to the Zoobilee Festival at www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo

The Queen opens Lion Terraces at London Zoo in 1976

1976 - Queen Elizabeth opens New Lion Terraces - Lord Zuckerman, The Queen, and Michael Brambell (Curator of Mammals) - Credit: ZSL

HM The Queen at the opening of the Lifewatch Centre 1990

HM The Queen at the opening of the Lifewatch Centre 1990 - Credit: ZSL London Zoo