June 1901 – This month last century

110 years ago the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visit New Zealand (10-27 June 1901)

A royal tour of New Zealand was mooted by arch-imperialist Premier Richard Seddon in 1897, during the Diamond (60th) anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne.

Flag, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Purchased 2004. Te Papa

Flag, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Purchased 2004. Te Papa

By 1900, such a visit had assumed greater importance. By this date, New Zealand was involved in the war in South Africa and supporters of a royal visit believed that it would encourage and reward New Zealand’s loyalty to the British Empire and its campaign against the Boers.

Queen Victoria agreed to her grandson, the Duke of Cornwall and York, making a tour of the colony, although she did not live to see the Duke and his wife embark on this trip.

Invitation to ’Maori demonstration’ at Rotorua for the Royal Tour, New Zealand, 1901, White, Benoni (1858–1950), A. D. Willis, New Zealand. Purchased 2001. Te Papa

Invitation to ’Maori demonstration’ at Rotorua for the Royal Tour, New Zealand, 1901, White, Benoni (1858–1950), A. D. Willis, New Zealand. Purchased 2001. Te Papa

The royal couple, who would later reign as George V and Queen Mary, arrived in New Zealand five months after the death of Victoria. They stopped in the four main centres: Auckland, Wellington, Chrischurch, and Dunedin. They also went to a hui in Rotorua where a ‘Grand Carnival of the Tribes’ took place. The invitation above was designed for the event.

Triumphal arches punctuated the routes of the royal processions through these towns. The one featured in this image was sponsored by the Dairy Association of New Zealand and was made from butter boxes.

Royal Visit - Butter, 19.06.1901, Maker unknown, Wellington. Te Papa

Royal Visit - Butter, 19.06.1901, Maker unknown, Wellington. Te Papa

Foliage, garlands and bunting also lined the streets. Electric lights were arranged on buildings to spell out patriotic messages. In Wellington, 2,400 adorned the Post Office. This was described as ‘the greatest effort of electric illuminations ever achieved in the colony’.

School children, many of whom created ‘living flags’ in the form of Union Jacks, received special tokens of the visit. The Duke reviewed soldiers and presented medals to veterans from the South African War. The invitation below was for a review held in Potter’s Park in Auckland.

Invitation, 1901, Hawcridge, Robert (1866–1920), J Wilkie and Company, Dunedin. Purchased 2004. Te Papa

Invitation, 1901, Hawcridge, Robert (1866–1920), J Wilkie and Company, Dunedin. Purchased 2004. Te Papa

New Zealanders received the Duke and Duchess enthusiastically. As the journalist assigned to the tour wrote: the couple experienced ‘a thousand miles of loyalty’ as they journedy through the colony.

Read more about how New Zealanders greeted the royal couple in Judith Bassett, ‘A Thousand Miles of Loyalty, New Zealand Journal of History, 1987.

See the Slice of Heaven website for more details about imperial loyalty in New Zealand at the beginning of the 20th century.

3 Responses

  1. Coralie

    I have a bound Women’s Weekly set of this Royal Tour June 1901. It is an amazing piece of history for both Maori and Pakeha. The advertisements are amazing and the reporting from the courts is yet another story. I guess I am very privileged to have this wealth of history and knowledge.

    Reply
    • Kirstie Ross

      Thanks Coralie – yes, it’s a great historical resource.

      Kirstie Ross | Curator History | phone: 00-64-4-381 7140 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa P O Box 467 | Wellington 6140 New Zealand

  2. kirstieross

    Hi Dane Thanks for reading this blog.

    It would be interesting to see how New Zealanders responded to a visit by the current heir to the throne, Prince William, and his new wife, Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In Canada at the moment they are generally being very warmly welcomed.

    Kirstie

    Reply

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