Remembering royal tours past

With the planned visit this year by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, people over a certain age will be remembering the Queen’s visit to New Zealand in 1953.

Strangely in a sense, it seems to always be referred to as the ’53 Royal Tour yet only nine days of a 40-day tour were in ’53. This was the year of the Tangiwai disaster and the Queen included a message of sympathy for those touched by the disaster in her 1953 Christmas broadcast. On December 31 Prince Philip attended a funeral service in Wellington for the victims.

With her young Prince, the Queen arrived in Auckland on December 23 1953 and it was not until December 30 that they arrived in Hamilton very late in the afternoon. In Hamilton that evening they attended a civic dinner and a youth fiesta.

These were very exciting times for all of us. I was given a button badge, not yet being at school, but thought my older brother’s little medallion on a blue ribbon much superior so I swapped with him (well, sort of swapped). Children were allowed off school to travel to the events or line the roads and railway lines to get a glimpse of royalty.

These photos show the enthusiasm, not only of the crowds but also of the officials – look at the people lining the street, the people running to keep up, but look at that cavalcade! The royal arrival in Hamilton was very obviously greeted with great gaiety and enthusiasm. Flowers, flags and bunting appeared in abundance, shops had special window displays and the public were dressed for the occasion – no overalls, jeans or pinnies in this line-up.

There are two soldiers in the foreground – one standing quite properly to attention but the other, the senior man and probably an officer, giving a less than impressive salute – he should be standing erect and looking straight ahead, not watching the parade as he salutes!

See the people standing on the window ledge above Wiseman’s – that is now The Londoner tavern. On the right there are two men running – newspaper reporters? The leading vehicle was probably occupied by the Commissioner of Police or the next most senior officer. The car is a Humber Super Snipe of 4-litre capacity and there are about seven of them. They gave about 15 miles to the gallon so the cost of petrol alone would have been phenomenal.

The Queen and Prince Philip are travelling in the open Daimler. They stayed the night in Hamilton at the Hamilton Hotel in Victoria St and the next day attended yet another civic reception and an agricultural display at the Claudelands Showgrounds. After lunch it was off to Te Kuiti.

It would be a long time before Hamilton saw another crowd like this lining Victoria St after the shops had closed. What excitement!

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Hamilton Central Libraries

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