When Johnny Whiteley MBE Met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

When Johnny Whiteley MBE Met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The country continues to mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II following her death at Balmoral Castle last Thursday.

Club News

The country continues to mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II following her death at Balmoral Castle last Thursday.

Like everyone else across the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the rest of the world, our players, staff and coaches at Hull FC have continued to reflect on her incredible life of service across her seventy year reign throughout the moving moments of the past seven days.

A life marked by a strong sense of determination and duty to the throne and her people, she became the one constant in a rapidly changing world, and her spirit and wisdom has been an example to all of us.

The second longest reign of any monarch in history, her time on the throne since 1952 has encompassed over half the time that the Black & Whites have been a Rugby League club, having broken away from the Rugby Football Union in 1895 to become one of the founding clubs of the Northern Union.

The sport of Rugby League was also proud to have Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Patron until 2016.

Our club crest will continue to fly at half-mast at the MKM Stadium during the period of national mourning.

While the loss of the Queen is being felt here and around the world, the club and the sport felt their own great sense of loss closer to home earlier this year with the passing of undoubtedly the club’s greatest figure of all-time, Johnny Whiteley MBE, which for Hull FC was perhaps our closest connection to the late sovereign.

Hull FC’s former captain and coach made over 400 club appearances between 1950 and 1965, winning multiple honours along the way including two Championship titles, a European Club Championship, and two World Cup winners medal having made a significant impact on the international stage too.

Post-retirement, ‘Gentleman John’ took on the reins of coaching his beloved Airlie Birds, before returning to the Great Britain side in 1970 and incredibly leading them to another Ashes victory Down Under – the last time the side won the series.

Having hung up his coaching boots at a professional level in the 1990s, the post-career honours flooded in – these included being awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Hull, being made a Freeman of the City of Hull, an induction into the Rugby League Roll of Honour and Hall of Fame, as well as the club’s own Hall of Fame.

However, perhaps his most significant piece of recognition was being awarded an MBE for Services to Rugby League & Community in the Queen’s 2006 New Year’s Honours list.

After the news was announced on December 31st 2005, Johnny travelled to Buckingham Palace on 23rd May 2006 to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, having also received a letter of congratulations from then Prime Minster Tony Blair the day before, which commented:

“You are the kind of sportsman we need in Great Britain, and we are proud of you and all of the work you continue to do.”

On a damp afternoon in Central London, not even the torrential rain could wipe the smile from his face, accompanied by his wife Joan, as well as his children and grandchildren.

He had met the Queen on previous occasions, including at the 1960 Challenge Cup Final as the Black & Whites went down to Wakefield Trinity at Wembley Stadium where Her Majesty was presenting the trophy and medals – this time, however, would be a much more joyous occasion in the presence of the monarch.

Johnny spoke to the Hull Daily Mail immediately after receiving the award.

“It means so much to me and my family. I felt so proud and was pleased the family was there to witness it.

“I hope it is a reflection of the city of Hull. I have talked to the Queen on behalf of the city – it’s what it was all about. It is the people of this city that I try and represent. 

“I have met the Queen three times before. I don’t think she recognised me, though. I’m just one of the thousands of people she meets.

“I wasn’t nervous – unlike a rugby match, there was no losing with this one.”

Describing the experience of meeting the monarch, he explained: “You get announced and people are told what you have done and what the award is for. 

“The Queen then made reference to it to me, and I told her who I was and that I had represented Hull and Great Britain at Rugby League. 

“She also asked whether I was still involved in rugby league; I said yes, and she said “Well done, and keep up the good work.”

“She was very kind and it was clear that she wasn’t just doing it for the sake of it – there was real warmth involved in the proceedings.”

Johnny also thanked those who had helped him along his Rugby League journey.

“This is not just about me, but those who put me forward and championed my cause. 

“I must thank them and also all those people I have played alongside, against, have coached, and trained because they have all played their part.

“You are only as good as the people you come into contact with and I have been very fortunate to have been associated with some excellent people.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends, especially my wife Joan. She has put up with a lot, especially me not being around a lot, although I supposed have never had the chance to fall out!

“For nearly 50 years, my kits has always been washed when I got in and ready for the next day!”