The Hawke's Bay Museum's Trust archival collection is a treasure trove of eclectic, rare and interesting ephemera that continues to amaze and delight researchers.
Tucked away among this collection is an acid-free conservation envelope with five colourful invitations addressed to Sir George and Lady Isabella Whitmore of Napier from "His Majesty's Ministers of New Zealand".
The invitations refer to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwell and York's visit, which took place between June 10-27, 1901.
The initial suggestion for a royal visit had been extorted by Premier Richard Seddon (King Dick) after Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Queen declined the request as she would not allow a prince so close to the throne to leave England and make the arduous voyage to her southern-most colony.
In 1900, the proposition for the Duke and Duchess to visit New Zealand was renewed. The case was strengthened by an invitation from Australia for the Duke (later King George V) to open the first federal parliament in Melbourne on May 9, 1901.
Queen Victoria agreed, mainly because of New Zealand and Australia's involvement in the South African War, believing that a tour by the royal couple would reward and further stimulate loyalty amongst her southern hemisphere colonies.
Before the couple arrived, royalist fervour swept Aotearoa and major cities were festooned with triumphal arches, bunting, transparencies and foliage.
Hundreds of New Zealanders had been formally chosen to meet the royal visitors or receive military medals. Six thousand people were sent invitations to attend royal receptions, many more marched in procession and took part in military reviews.
The Whitmores were among the favoured to receive invitations to the various events held in the North Island.
Sir George Whitmore had had a distinguished military career leading the colonial forces in various campaigns throughout the New Zealand wars and for over 40 years had been part of the Legislature Council or Upper House of the New Zealand Government.
Known for his taciturn, egotistical and unbending nature, he proved difficult to deal with and readily made enemies.
On the other hand, Isabella, his wife, was considered "gentle and cheerful", being "loved and respected by all she came in contact". Her charitable and patriotic work within Hawke's Bay was extensive.
The big day arrived - the royal yacht Ophir sailed into Auckland harbour on June 10, 1901, where it remained until June 13.
During this stop-over, the duke presented medals to the officers and men of the New Zealand South African Contingent.
The royal highnesses then travelled by royal train to Rotorua, where Māori had gathered from all over Aotearoa to formerly welcome the couple. It was here that Airini Donnelly from Ngāti Kahungunu placed around the duchess' neck a pounamu tiki "of priceless value".
The royal party then rejoined the Ophir and sailed to Wellington, where foundation stones for the Town Hall and new government railway offices were laid.
Over the following two days, parliamentary receptions were held, one being at Government House.
The Evening Post gushed that the "reception rooms were exquisitely decorated, with fine foliage plants set about the rooms, and the carved Māori food house, a prominent ornament in one of the drawing rooms, stood appropriately enough under the graceful fronds of a splendid tree fern". Many of the guests carried posies of violets, scenting the air with their perfume.
After two days, the Ophir sailed to Christchurch and Dunedin where similar festivities were held before leaving Aotearoa's coastline and sailing for Tasmania.
The inaugural royal visit was over. Considered a great success, it was a celebration of New Zealand as New Zealanders wished to be seen at the time.
Gail Pope is social history curator at the MTG