The British Are Coming…To Visit! #ThisWeekInWYHistory

Whenever there’s a royal wedding or another big monarchial event, I’m always left scratching my head at how popular these events can be. Didn’t we fight a war to get rid of these people?

Well, what’s a little war between friends, right? After a couple hundred years we let bygones be bygones and a visit from the queen is a really big deal.

So it was on October 15, 1984, when Queen Elizabeth II stayed in Sheridan to buy some polo ponies.

According to an article in the New York Times, the great monarch flew into the Sheridan County Airport in a VC-10 Royal Air Force jet. She wore a turquoise suit and hat, rode in a black limousine, which was accompanied by a six-car motorcade for a 10-mile drive to Canyon Ranch.

Apparently, the ranch’s owners, the Wallops, are descendants of the British aristocracy. In 1893, Malcolm Wallop set up a polo field and pony breeding operation near Big Horn.

Highclere Castle

His paternal grandfather, Oliver Henry Wallop, was the eighth Earl of Portsmouth and served in both the Britain’s House of Lords and Wyoming’s House of Representatives. Apparently, he was the only man to ever serve in both.

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John Wallop, who died in 1762, was the first man to hold the Earl of Portsmouth title.

So, when Elizabeth II came to Sheridan, Malcolm Wallop hosted her at the Canyon Ranch. Due to “logistics,” the queen was unable to attend church that Sunday, but she did visit the Bradford Brinton Museum, which was about a mile from the ranch. At the museum, she viewed paintings by famed western artist Fredrick Remington.

Tight security surrounded the queen’s visit, as it followed shortly after the Irish Republican Army’s bombing of a hotel in England, where Margaret Thatcher was staying. Ronald Reagan called the queen while she was in Sheridan to discuss the bombing, which nearly killed Thatcher.

Malcolm Wallop, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, died in 2011. The Wallop family still holds British royalty titles. Wallop’s sister, Jean, is the Countess of Carnarvon, and her son, George Herbert, is Earl of Carnarvon.

Their family home is Highclere Castle, which was used for the setting of the PBS television series Downton Abbey.

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.