Friday, 9 November 2012

Remembering The 1901 Royal Visit to Dunedin, New Zealand

HRH, Prince George, The Prince of Wales, as
portrayed at the time of the Coronation of his
Father, King Edward VII, 1902
[from my own collection]

The Royal Visit of HRH Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall & HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall to New Zealand put me in mind of the visit of [the then] HRH Prince George, Duke of Cornwall & York and HRH Princess Mary, Duchess of Cornwall & York to my home-town of Dunedin in June 1901.

HRH Princess Mary, The Princess of Wales,
as portrayed at the time of the coronation of
King Edward VII, 1902
[From my own collection]

Created Prince & Princess of Wales in November 1901, both would be crowned King and Queen of Great Britain and her Dominions in 1910. Sadly, this would be their one and only visit to New Zealand.

A mounted miniature on a decorative velour base of
HRH Princess Mary, The Duchess of Cornwall & York.
Taken by Russell & Sons, Photographers, London, c.1893.
[From my own collection]

Arriving in New Zealand on the 11th June 1901 aboard the specially converted Orient Liner 'H.M.S. Ophir', and accompanied by a Naval escort of no less than six British warships, the visit of the Royal couple was primarily to personally thank the country for supporting Britain in her conflict with the Boers in South Africa. The visit had in fact been approved by Queen Victoria not long before her death which occurred on the 22nd January 1901.

A colourful assemblage of flags on a Locomotive
used for the Royal Train, June 1901.
Photo by Albert Percy Godber.
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

Their visit took in their arrival port of Auckland, thence by railway to the central North Island thermal wonderland of Rotorua, back by railway to Auckland and then a further voyage by the "Ophir" to Wellington.

The Official Government Programme for the
Visit of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and
Duchess of Cornwall  & York to New Zealand,
June 1901
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

Thence by the 'HMS Ophir' across Cook Strait to Lyttleton for Christchurch in the South Island and then further south by railway to Dunedin, before returning again by railway to Lyttleton where they departed on the 'HMS Ophir' on the 27th June 1901.

The Lounge Car used for the Royal Train, 1901.
Note the 'homely' fireplace and over-mantel mirror!
The whole car had been specially built for the tour.
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

Their visit to New Zealand met with rapturous welcomes and a heartfelt outpouring of loyalty to Britain and the Empire. Large crowds flocked to every vantage point in cities and along Railway lines to catch even a fleeting glimpse of the Royal couple.

A modern view of the Fernhill Club Dunedin, the Dunedin Residence
of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke & Duchess of Cornwall and York,
Dunedin June 1901.

No less that 900 men guarded the line between Christchurch and Dunedin. Upon the arrival of the Royal Party at Dunedin Railway Station, on time, at 6pm on the evening of the 25th June 1901 loud cheers broke out and bands played the National Anthem.

The Royal Drawing Room at the Fernhill Club, Dunedin, 1901
[Source : Matapihi]

The Duke then inspected the Dunedin Naval Cadets who formed the guard of honour. Thereafter the Royal Party were driven past cheering crowds to the Fernhill Club, the Otago Hussars and Mounted Rifles contingents forming the escort and guard of honour whilst bands played along the route. The Octagon through which the party passed, and the four ceremonial arches spanning the route, were ablaze with electric light. These comprised of a Government, a City, a Suburban, and a novel Chinese arch. At night the Octagon was a “scene of great beauty” with illuminated decorations, and the evening was rounded off with a great fireworks display.

HRH Princess Mary's Stateroom at the Fernhill Club, Dunedin 1901
[Source : Matapihi]

That evening His Excellency Lord Ranfurly, the Governor of New Zealand, and the Countess of Ranfurly, hosted a State Dinner for the Royal Party and invited guests, including the Prime Minister, the Honourable Richard Seddon, at the Fernhill Club.  While resident at Fernhill the Royal Standard flew from the flag pole.

HRH Prince George's Stateroom at the Fernhill Club, Dunedin 1901
[Source : Matapihi]

During the evening, the Dunedin Liedertafel Group serenaded the Duke & Duchess, whereupon the Duke appeared at the window and courteously asked them if they would sing again.

A Colourful Invitation to the Presentation of the Address of Welcome
to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke & Duchess of Cornwall & York
at Dunedin, 25th June 1901.
[Source : National Library of New Zealand] 

At 11.30am the Royal party left the Fernhill Club for the gaily decorated Octagon in the centre of the City where the presentation of addresses was to take place.

HRH The Duke of Cornwall & York replying to the Citizen's Address of
Welcome at the Royal Reception in the Octagon, Dunedin, 26 June 1901.
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

The Reception for the Royal Couple in the Octagon,
Dunedin, 26th June 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

Thereafter the Duke of Cornwall & York presented war medals to returned South African Troopers while the Duchess presented the South African war medal to Nurse Ross.

HRH The Duke of Cornwall & York on the dais presenting Medals to
returned South African War servicemen, Dunedin 26th June 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

A single grainy frame from an extremely rare and historic film showing
the Duke of Cornwall & York presenting Medals to South African War
Servicemen in the Octagon, Dunedin, 26th June 1901.
Click HERE to view the full 1 minute 39 second film.

HRH The Duke of Cornwall & York Inspecting the Military Veterans
at the Royal Reception in the Octagon, Dunedin, 26 June 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

A Royal procession then commenced through the City at 12.15pm, the party returning to the Fernhill Club half an hour later.

The NZ Government Royal Reception Arch,
The Octagon, Dunedin, June 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

At 2.30pm the Royal Party then proceeded to the Children's Demonstration at the Caledonian Ground where they watched over 2,200 school children undertake various activities including physical drill, 'marching evolutions', wand exercises, and a mass march-past.

Dunedin School children, representing 23 schools, marching past
the Royal Visitors at the Children's demonstration, Caledonian
Grounds, Dunedin, 26th June 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

The Royal party then visited the Agricultural & Pastoral Society's Show in the Agricultural Hall thereafter to the Dunedin Horticultural Show in Ross & Glendinning's buildings in High Street before returning to the Fernhill Club. At 9.45pm they returned to the Agricultural Hall for a reception.

HRH The Duke of Cornwall & York Laying the Foundation Stone
for the Memorial to Queen Victoria, Queen's Gardens, Dunedin,
26th June 1901.
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

After another night at the Fernhill Club the last official duty for the Royal party was to lay the foundation stone for the Memorial to Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria at "The Triangle" [now known as Queen's Gardens].

A grainy but historic published image of Their
Royal Highnesses, The Duke & Duchess of
Cornwall & York leaving the dais after unveiling
the foundation stone for the monument to
Queen Victoria in Dunedin, June 1901
[Source : 'The Outlook']

Rather touchingly, two children who had "tramped from Invercargill" were presented to their Royal Highnesses and given presents of autographed photographs.

Before his departure the Duke addressed the assembled crowd on behalf of himself and the Duchess :

"...We shall leave this beautiful [and] hospitable island with deep regret and shall go away with the hearty cheers of your people still ringing in our ears, bearing in our hearts grateful and unfading recollections of the happiness experienced at their hands. Kia Ora."

Fortuitously, despite it being winter, the Royal Visit to Dunedin had been accompanied by cold but clear weather.

The completed Statue to Queen Victoria
in Queen's Gardens, Dunedin.
The foundation stone was laid by HRH The Duke of
Cornwall & York on the 27th June 1901.
At rear is the Cenotaph War Memorial.
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]

Thereupon the Royal Party departed for the nearby Railway Station and at 11am took their leave of Dunedin to return north to their ship at the port of Lyttleton. At the personal invitation of the Duchess, the Mayoress of Dunedin, Mrs Denniston, was graciously invited to travel with her on the Royal Train for the long journey north. This would have been considered a great honour. As one of her three Ladies in Waiting had taken a cold in Christchurch and not come south the Duchess may have appreciated some extra - and obviously convivial - company.

The Dining Area on the Royal Train, 1901.
Photo by Albert Percy Godber.
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

The only resounding criticism of the Royal Visit south was that it had to be curtailed so early in order that the Royal Couple could return to their ship at Lyttleton rather than head south a shorter distance by railway and board the 'HMS Ophir' at Bluff, possibly including a visit to the world famous Milford Sound. A Commodore of the British Royal Navy accompanying the 'HMS Ophir' was widely derided in the press for being afraid of taking his ships "South-about" or "to go through Cook Strait in the dark".

Nevertheless, the visit of the Royal couple to Dunedin and to New Zealand was a resounding success. And moreover, Dunedin was reported to have "proved itself one the most demonstrative of New Zealand cities".

My companion Blog on the 1901 Royal Visit to Auckland using a number of unpublished photographs from my own collection may be viewed Here.

Bibliography :

- The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
- Nga Whare Matauranga o Tamaki Makaurau
- Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
- Matapihi


  1. Although I don't like the idea of citizens in the colonies or ex-colonies paying the huge costs of royal trips, the 1901 trip to Dunedin produced some wonderful facilities. That royal train, for example, looks as if it had every comfort known in 1901.

    The Royal Reception Arch was over-the-top, but that wouldn't have mattered, IF the arch was always meant to be temporary. Fortunately the outdoor ceremonies seem to have been conducted in very finely designed pavilions.

  2. I don't see mention of the fact that the new Wellington Railway Station was opened by the royal couple - an invitational event for which I have the original invitation to, as well as the invitation shown elsewhere here (unused),
    Jim Middlebrook
    (NP (06)753-4416

    1. Thank you Jim, I will probably write further Royal visit blogs in future to co-incide with another Royal visit and will most likely feature Wellington if that is on the itinerary

  3. This is a very interesting site.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...