Queens’ College

Cambridge, United Kingdom | C.1448

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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Perched above the tables, portraits, and gilded moldings of the Old Hall lies a Latin phrase, “Floreat Domus.” Translating to “May this house flourish,” the college’s founders most likely had no idea that the academic institution would be blossoming for over 5 centuries. Containing some of Cambridge University’s oldest structures, Queens College is home to flourishing minds and a few embellished stories. 

Founded by Margaret of Anjou in 1448 and refounded by her royal rival Elizabeth Woodville in 1465 (after Margaret and her husband, King Henry VI, had been deposed), the college’s name reflects that it was influenced by two monarchs with some English grammar—it’s officially known as Queens’ instead of Queen’s. With the blessing and patronage of these two royal ladies, the college quickly grew with its iconic red-brick structures, including one of the earliest libraries in Cambridge. Living up to the name “The Old Library,” Queens’ College didn’t have the funds to re-bind their books in the 18th century like other college libraries, and so today students and visitors alike are treated to books and manuscripts held by their original binding. Probably best not to check those out of the library. 

Unlike other colleges on Cambridge University’s campus, Queens’ College is located on both sides of the canal running straight through the scholarly city. Connected by a small wooden bridge, legend has it that it was originally designed by Isaac Newton himself, with neither nuts nor bolts to hold the structure in place. As the story goes, Newton designed the “Mathematical Bridge” so perfectly that no screws were needed, and years later some students decided to take it apart and put it back together. Not being able to replicate his genius, the students are the reason that the bridge is held by screws. Thankfully, for the reputation of those fabled students, Newton had already passed away a few years before the bridge was constructed.

Part of one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in the world, Queens’ College continues a grand tradition of hard studies and a plethora of brilliant thinkers. Unfortunately, someone has yet to figure out how to design the perfect canal-spanning bridge.

:memo: Written by: Seamus McMahon

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