Mid-Century Monarchs

The future King George V first visited Wellington College when aged twelve, with his parents, in 1877. The royal party inspected the newly-built Science School, now the Driver Rooms. In 1892, as Duke of York, he became a College Governor, and regularly attended meetings.

King George V inspecting the Corps, 1916 

In 1900, the Duke and Duchess paid a ‘strictly private’ visit, intending to see the College ‘in its plain working order.’ In this capacity they toured classrooms, dormitories and sports facilities. As Prince of Wales, George continued as a Governor, and welcomed his father the King to College in 1907.  

King George surprised the College community in 1916, announcing his intention to inspect the Cadet Corps with only a day’s notice. Arriving on horseback, he reviewed the Corps on Bigside, before presenting the King’s Medal to the Head of College. Ten years later, the King and Queen attended Sunday morning service in Chapel, and chatted to staff and students. In January 1936, Wellington cadets had the honour of lining the route of the King’s funeral procession at Windsor. 

The Prince of Wales with Prefects, 1926

George V’s son, Prince Edward, became a Governor of the College in 1918, and in a letter to former Master Bertram Pollock expressed his pleasure at being the third Prince of Wales to hold the position, describing the Old Wellingtonians he had met as ‘splendid and efficient.’ He paid an informal visit to College in 1926, watching cricket and racquets matches and having tea at Grubbies with the Prefects. His brief reign as Edward VIII and abdication provided no further opportunity for visits. 

The royal party at the Stanley air raid shelter, 1940

When King George VI succeeded his brother in 1936 he knew little about Wellington, but was glad to accept the monarch’s position as Visitor. His only visit was in December 1940, just weeks after the College had been damaged and the Master killed by a German bombing raid. King George, Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters attended morning service in Chapel and then visited the Combermere, the Air Raid Precautions headquarters, and the Stanley air raid shelter. Coming at a time of great shock and sadness for the College, their visit was much appreciated. The College CCF was again honoured to be among those who lined the route at the King’s funeral in 1952. The same year his widow, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, visited us for the dedication of the new Chapel windows.  

King George VI in Combermere Quad, 1940
Letter from the King’s Equerry following the 1940 visit, praising the ‘excellent spirit’ at Wellington
Wellington CCF line the route at King George VI’s funeral, 1952 
The Queen Mother visits College, 1952