Today, 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II overtakes her great-great grandmother Victoria to become the longest reigning British monarch. The 63 years that Queen Elizabeth has reigned have been ones of immense change and there have been 12 Prime Ministers, the same number of American presidents and 7 popes during this time.
The University of Southampton has the distinction of being the first higher education institution to be granted university status in this reign, receiving its royal charter on 29 April 1952.
The foundation institute of the University was the Hartley Institution, based in High Street, Southampton, which was opened on 15 October 1862 by the then Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston. From modest beginnings, offering a mixture of public lectures on a range of subjects and evening classes in French and chemistry to residents of Southampton, as well as a reading room and a library, the Hartley Institution — and the University of Southampton — have grown into a multi-disciplinary, internationally renowned university of the twenty-first century.
On being granted its royal charter a number of letters of congratulation were received, including the above letter from Exeter University College, which reads:
“Greetings from Exeter University College to the University of Southampton.
We recently received your letter, Gentlemen, in which you announced that, having now obtained a Royal Charter, you were about to install in this most auspicious year a Chancellor of most illustrious name, and you signified your wish that we should share in your joyful celebration. We thank you greatly for your goodwill and send you triple and threefold congratulations. For we are your neighbours, your rivals, and also your friends; the sun in his daily course reaches us immediately after you. May this be an omen favourable to us, and we be second to you. May your new University, which now so to speak assumes the toga of manhood, flourish—such is our prayer to Almighty God—and may it have youth and vigour everlasting. May friendly rivalry flourish, not only among neighbours and colleagues, but also among all men of every country and profession.”