British Royal family visit the Diamond City
It was on this day 76 years ago (Friday 18 April 1947) that the high profile visit of the British Royal family took place in Kimberley. It was an hectic schedule for the day and the family managed to visit the Duggan-Cronin Gallery where they had a tea reception with the town’s dignitaries and citizenry, a luncheon visit to the Kimberley Club, a look at the Big Hole, a parade of ex-servicemen on Market Square, and a visit to a display of diamonds (pictured) at the Consolidated Buildings 1926 where the two Princesses were presented with diamonds by Mary Oppenheimer. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer took the family on the tour of the Big Hole and De Beers. At the Kimberley Club the King and Queen stayed in room number 5 and the two Princesses in room number 4.
The Royal Family (King George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth and his two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret) undertook a leisurely three month journey (February to April) through their Southern African dominions (South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Swaziland, Basutoland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate). The trip involved 10 000 miles of travel including 4920 miles by rail (though the family flew to Rhodesia).
The journey to South Africa was by battle cruiser (the HMS Vanguard). It was a marathon endurance test in cheerful and gracious encounters with their African subjects; these were the moments of welcome, homage and delight. There must have been thousands of handshakes and platitudes exchanged that the people who met the King and Queen and the two princesses would remember the rest of their lives as “the day I met the Royal family”.
Small girls curtseyed and presented bouquets of flowers. In Kimberley, the bouquets and posies were made by Ivy Milborow.
The occasions were many for cultural spectaculars whether Volkspele dancing or massed Zulu impis in warrior stance. Thousands flocked to the railway stations along the route for the brief whistlestop halts; these were the speedy moments for local dignitaries and guards of honour to be presented to royalty or to stand to attention for inspection.
Pictured are two scenes from the Royal Visit to the Big Hole in 1947. The one picture is of great interest to Royal Family enthusiasts as it shows Group Captain Peter Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC & Bar standing in close proximity to Princess Margaret while peering into the Big Hole. They had a well-publicised affair that may well have had its beginnings on the Royal tour.
DID YOU KNOW
The farms that make up what is now the general Kimberley region were Dorstfontein, Bultfontein, Vooruitzicht, Alexandersfontein and Benaauwheidsfontein. The title deeds to the farm Bultfontein were granted by the British Government then controlling the Orange River Sovereignty, under Warden Certificate to J.F. Otto on 16 December 1848. This was the first farm to be settled by white Boers. Dorstfontein was granted by the Orange Free State Government to Abraham Paulus du Toit on 4 April 1860, while Vooruitzicht, formerly a portion of Bultfontein was sold to the brothers Diedrich Arnoldus and Johannes Nicolaas de Beer two weeks after he had received his title deeds, on 18 April 1860. Whether Otto sold the land is not known, but there are documents that suggest the Free State Government sold it to the De Beers brothers for £50. There are some discrepancies here as Alpheus Williams records that Vooruitzicht was sold on 27 December 1863 to the De Beers brothers.