Royal Tour: 1953 Queen Mother and Princess Margaret

Royal Tour

1953 Queen Mother and Princess Margaret

This Royal Tour was specifically scheduled to open the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition in Bulawayo, as well as the unveiling of the Fairbridge Memorial.  The tour was originally scheduled for Princess Elizabeth, but due to the King George VI’s death in February 1952 schedules were rearranged, with the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret attending instead.

On 30th June, 1953 the Royal Party set out from London on a trip to Southern Rhodesia in a Comet jet airliner which was part of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) fleet.

The Comet touched down at about noon on the 1st of July at the newly established Salisbury Airport. The Royal Party was welcomed by Sir John Kennedy, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia.

The Royal Party travelled in three air-conditioned coaches that had been used for the 1947 Royal tour of South Africa. The coaches were fully equipped with bedrooms, dining coach and a lounge section, a bathroom with English bath crystals and soap tablets and a kitchen fully equipped with delicacies imported from England.

On 3 July the Royal Party arrived in Bulawayo, where they were met by Mayor Colonel C M Newman. The Queen Mother inspected a Guard of Honour drawn from the various units of the Southern Rhodesian Territorial Forces.

The Royal Party was then driven through the city on an 11-mile journey to the Government House. In the afternoon the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret motored to the Queen’s Ground where the Queen Mother officially opened the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition by pressing a button to open the gates to the Queen’s Ground.

Both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were presented with diamond and aluminum brooches fashioned like the flame lily. The brooches were in actual fact replicas of that given to the Queen by Southern Rhodesian school children on the occasion of her 21st birthday. The presents were presented by Colonel Sir Ellis Robins, the chairman of the Exhibition Board.

On 4 July the Royal Party undertook a second tour of the Exhibition. The Royal Party visited all the 18 countries’ pavilions. At each pavilion they were showered with gifts.

There was a mayoral garden party that had been laid out the citizens of Bulawayo.The party was held in the Bulawayo (Central) Park. There the Queen Mother met the widows of the Rhodesian pioneers. The occasion attracted no less than 10 000 people.

The Royal Party attended a divine service at St John’s Church where they were welcomed by the Bishop of Matabeleland and the Archdeacon, the Venerable E Addington Hunt. The service was followed by a visit to Barham Green Village, a recently developed housing estate for the native people.

In the evening there was an orchestral performance by the Halle Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, in the 3,000-seater Royal Theatre in the exhibition grounds. The Royal Theatre had been specially built for the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition.

The 5th of July had been designed as a day of rest. However, a considerable number of Rhodesians felt the Royal Tour would not be complete without a pilgrimage to Rhodes’ grave on Malindidzimu Hill within the Matobo Hills.  At the site, a Centenary Service was held. The 5 000 strong pilgrims clapped hands when the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret took their seats next to Rhodes’ grave.

Later the Royal Party made a courtesy call at Queen Mary House and St Gabriel’s Home. The next leg of the visit took the Royal Party to Luveve African Village. Upon arrival at Luveve the Queen Mother was welcomed by a brass band and singing and ululating African women with some of them having come from as far as the Belgian Congo.

The visit to Bulawayo ended on 6 July 1953 with a pageant in the Exhibition Park. In the evening the Royal Party left Bulawayo aboard the Royal Train to other Rhodesian destinations such as Gwelo, Que Que, Salisbury, Great Zimbabwe and Fort Victoria.



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