King George and Queen Mary’s visit to Yorkshire July 1912

Our August “hybrid meeting” was a talk by Christine Leveridge, local historian and author, on the Royal Visit to the West Riding 8-12 July 1912 by King George V and Queen Mary. We were treated to a detailed hour by hour account of visits to each place  during the tour, richly illustrated by photographs from her collection of over 100 postcards

The King desired that no public money should be spent, and that formality should be avoided. The organising committee decided an itinerary to visit places associated with the Coal Mining, Engineering and Textiles, with a specific aim of demonstrating the working lives of men and women in those industries. The King and Queen were staying at Wentworth Woodhouse throughout, and started their visit in the coalfield around Doncaster.

But through a tragic twist of fate, the tour was overshadowed by a disaster at nearby Cadeby Main Pit, where 35 men were killed in a first explosion, and a further 53 men of the rescue team were killed in a second explosion. It was decided to maintain the original programme, but in the evening of the following day, the King and Queen went to the village to express their sympathy. The Queen, especially, was moved to tears. The next day, the King descended underground, as planned, at another colliery, despite the poignant reminder of the inherent danger.

There were also light-hearted moments, such as the King being “tricked” into unveiling a statue of his father (despite wishing to avoid all ceremony) by being given a cord to pull! There was also the lady, who had been offered compensation for her chicken run over by the royal motorcade, who jokingly said that the King and Queen would be welcome for a cup of tea. The King took her at her word, and turned up at her house – but she was out (watching the procession)!

There were many photos of visits in our immediate area, for instance to Wakefield, Horbury, Ossett, Batley and Dewsbury. In fact, the whole research project had been inspired by a first postcard taken during the 15 minute visit to Dewsbury. This quarter hour was worked up into an article covering the whole 4 days in Picture Postcard Magazine, and of course the engrossing talk, that we were regaled with.

We saw many pictures of schoolchildren lining the route, and there were crowds thronging the streets for every stop (there were even people sitting on roofs!) The Royal Diary said that there were over a million people who saw the Royal procession, and it is sure that it was one of the most memorable spectacles of the period. We are grateful to Christine for giving us an insight into that event 110 years ago. After all, many of our family members would have been eye-witnesses, and even if they weren’t they would surely have discussed it with people who were!

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