King Edward VII
When Prince Albert died suddenly in 1861, the Earl of Derby took over as a ‘caretaker’ College President. Two years later, Victoria and Albert’s eldest son Edward, known as ‘Bertie,’ consented to take on his father’s role, the beginning of a long and illustrious connection with Wellington.
As Prince of Wales, Edward visited the College several times, mostly on Speech Day when he presented the prizes and complimented those students who performed in French, German, Latin and Greek. Royal visits were frequently celebrated by an extra day’s holiday for the students.
During his reign, Edward VII attended three Speech Days, in 1904, 1907 and 1909. On their first two visits, the King and Queen did not attend for the whole day, but arrived in the afternoon at Great Gate where they were received under ‘a pretty pavilion, in broad bands of the Wellington colours of pale blue and gold.’ The King presented the King’s Medal before touring the College. During his 1907 visit, Edward VII unveiled the South African War Memorial in Chapel, opened the new Dining Hall, and presented the Toye Challenge Trophy for the first time. He sent instructions that the Master’s sermon was not to exceed five minutes.
In 1909, Speech Day was postponed at the King’s request, to ensure his attendance for the College’s 50th anniversary. This time the royal party had lunch in Waterloo Hall, then known as the ‘Royal Room’, and attended the entire prize-giving ceremony. The Master, Bertram Pollock, made sure to obtain the recipe for the King’s favourite drink, and to ensure his every comfort. The event was commemorated by a carved inscription, added to the foundation stone in Front Quad which had been laid by Queen Victoria. Edward VII remains the only reigning monarch to have visited on Speech Day.