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.