Since its early days as a health resort and Britain’s first holiday destination, Tunbridge Wells has had a special connection to the royal family. As a result, the town has always been enthusiastic about celebrating national royal events. From royal visits to coronations, Tunbridge Wells has a long history of commemorating important royal occasions.

One of the earliest royal visits to Tunbridge Wells was made by King Charles II and Queen Katharine. They stayed in the town on several occasions, and their visits helped to put Tunbridge Wells on the map as a fashionable health resort. Another royal visitor was the future Queen Anne, who supported the town by giving money for the paving of the Pantiles. To celebrate her coronation in 1702, locals planted a grove of trees on the open heathland of Tunbridge Wells Common. By the mid-1700s, the town’s first tourist guide celebrated over a century of royal patronage.

One of the most noteworthy visitors to Tunbridge Wells was the Duchess of Kent and her daughter, Princess (later Queen) Victoria. They were regular visitors to the town and became affectionately known as the “Kents of Tunbridge Wells”. In 1838, Princess Victoria, who was just 19 years old at the time, stayed at the Mount Ephraim Hotel (now the Hotel du Vin) in Tunbridge Wells on her journey to London for her coronation. The town was decorated with flags and bunting to welcome her arrival. The celebrations for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 were consciously low key, as it was decided not to waste money on ‘illuminations’ but to focus on a public dinner for the poor with associated games and musical entertainment.

In 1887, Tunbridge Wells celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee with great enthusiasm. The town was decorated with red, white, and blue streamers, and patriotic music was played in the streets. Nowhere was the celebration more exuberant than on the Common, where over 3,000 school children, soldiers, and members of the public gathered to sing the national anthem and cheer. The Common was also illuminated with fairy lights and a few firework displays were put on in Victoria Park.

In the early 1900s local royal celebrations continued the pattern set in Queen Victoria’s reign.  On coronation day in 1902, 1911 and 1937 events took place throughout the day, including elaborate processions with carnival floats prepared by local schools and other organisations

When King George V and Queen Mary visited Tunbridge Wells in 1917, they were greeted with a civic welcome and a specially built triumphal arch. The town was also decorated with flags and bunting, and a parade of scouts and guides took place in their honour. In the evening, the king and queen attended a charity concert at the Assembly Rooms, which raised over £1,000 for the Red Cross.

In 1909, King Edward VII granted Tunbridge Wells the right to use the title ‘Royal’, in recognition of its long association with the royal family.  It was the new Borough Advertising Association, launched in 1908, which first suggested that the Council could raise the town’s national prestige by seeking the title.  The King had visited the town himself, and he would have known of his mother’s affectionate memories of her childhood holidays.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation day in 1953 was rather different, because for the first time people could watch the national ceremony broadcast on television.  Many public venues offered an opportunity to view the broadcast.   Later in the day, crowds gathered on the Common for a programme of events including band performances, community singing, a broadcast of the new Queen’s message to her people, a bonfire and fireworks.  Streets in the town were beautifully decorated, and over subsequent days local communities held street parties and other events.

Queen Elizabeth II’ reign saw many celebrations and royal visits, including the Silver Jubilee events of 1977 when the Queen Mother made one of several visits to the town, and the Princess Royal’s unveiling of the Victoria Cross memorial in 2006 for the fourth centenary of the discovery of Tunbridge Wells.  The Platinum Jubilee marked another milestone in the colourful history of our town’s royal associations as many organised their own streets parties.

Today, Tunbridge Wells still celebrates national royal events with enthusiasm. Whether it’s a royal wedding, jubilee celebration or coronation, the townspeople still commemorate these momentous occasions with great pride in their historical connections to the royal family. King Charles III’s Coronation is another chance for a town to reaffirm its people’s special relationship with the Crown.

Read more about the celebration happening across the town here and view our events calendar for all the wonderful events across the borough.