On this Day 9th April 1902

King of the Road

Hurrah! Hurrah!” King Edward VII – expected to grace St Michael’s Mount with his person, expected to pay a call on Lord and Lady St Leven, but not anticipated in Penzance by “even the most ardent” –is driving about the town, with fifty cyclists as a vanguard, and satisfied royalists enjoying a throng of Union flags and bunting in his wake.

The news of His Majesty’s intention to enjoy an afternoon in Penzance with his hosts, before returning to the Mount in time for tea, came by telegram. Getting the flags and bunting in place was all a bit of a rush, and then close on 1000 children had to be marshalled along the route.

Crowds have gathered at the station, looking eagerly down the road towards Marazion, and good-humouredly cheering donkey-carts and colliers’ wagons to enliven their wait. It has been a sunny morning, but since then the sky has clouded over, and a brisk little easterly breeze is making itself felt: in short, a typical April day. But here at last is the royal party, starting their circuit of the town. And here, too, is the sun breaking through again.

“Everyone was pleased” insists a newspaper columnist, and goes on to protest that this is no empty exaggeration. “All of Penzance seemed to have turned into the streets – young and old, the infirm, all sorts and conditions of people”. A few of those older ones will have remembered the King’s visit in 1865, when he was merely Duke of Cornwall. There are exciting tales – after the long reign of the increasingly reclusive Victoria – of his naval credentials and army prowess. And the King has dressed to impress, with his Royal Yachting Squadron uniform and cap.

The route takes in (of course) Alexandra Road, opened during the previous visit; the new Public Buildings at Alverton, where the King is greeted the Mayor; Market Jew Street, where shopkeepers have striven to show their patriotic zeal and talent for showmanship. We may also imagine the King looking up past the Lodge at the drive into the exclusive Polwithen Estate; the drive that will shortly be named “King’s Road” in his honour.

To the lads of the town, the event is proving a particularly exciting one. When the boldest hang onto the carriage he won’t have them shooed away – indeed, seems to delight in their pleasure. Perhaps those venturesome lads haven’t yet heard about Marazion, where an over-enthusiastic youth was “soundly thrashed” by one of the detectives guarding His Majesty. Or perhaps they are defiantly displaying their optimism, faith in fair play, and British pluck.

Hurrah for the 20th century; hurrah for an end to Victorian values; hurrah for the King.

Cornishman 12th April 1902, pages 5 and 6; Cornishman 17th April 1902, pages 4 and 5.

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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