The second son of King George V and Queen Mary, Prince Albert (1895-1952), the Duke of York, and Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (1900-2002) visited New Zealand in 1927, arriving on HMS Renown.

The royal couple left their infant daughter Elizabeth – the present Queen - in Britain while they toured many parts of the Commonwealth.

The royal train steamed into the Hastings Railway Station on the afternoon of March 5, 1927.

Read more: Michael Fowler: Pie cart filled Bay bellies before Maccas, KFC
Michael Fowler: Grateful settlers kicked off McLean Park project
Michael Fowler: Esk Valley's April flooding nightmare


First to arrive was the police pilot train. When word was received that the royal train had reached Paki Paki, the crowd grew restless with anticipation, especially as it was 20 minutes behind schedule.

When Hastings mayor George Maddison, from the platform, saw the train in the distance, he called, "She's coming!", and the crowd's excitement grew more intense.

The royals were met by the mayor, mayoress and town clerk, Percy Purser, with the Duke acknowledging the cheering crowd.

"She's simply lovely," one woman excitedly exclaimed on seeing the Duchess.

The couple would travel by car to Cornwall Park via the decorated Russell, Heretaunga and Nelson streets with their flags and bunting. The crowds were reportedly "wildly vociferous" but maintained "orderly lines".

Before reaching Cornwall Park, the royal couple's arrival would be preceded by "two explosive rockets" – a signal to the waiting crowd of 20,000 (the population of Hastings was about 11,000) that the royal car was near.

The rockets were apparently so loud the noise stunned the crowd into silence. But when the royal car drove under an arch to Cornwall Park, which bore the message "Welcome to Hastings", the crowd erupted into cheers.

The dais in Cornwall Park had armchairs for the royal party and featured a sloping rockery in front. Facing the dais was the monument that Hastings had erected to commemorate the coronation of King George V, in 1911.


Mayor Maddison's address to the couple was amplified through two large loudspeakers and was followed by the Duke's response – which wasn't a verbal speech – he instead handed a written response to the mayor, likely on account of his pronounced stutter.

To limit the Duke's public talking, he made it a rule not to speak in provincial towns.

After the Duke inspected Maori, South African and World War I veterans, the Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies and 4000 other children paraded for the couple and waved flags.

It would be a short stay in Hastings, as the royals headed to the train to make their way to Napier, running 25 minutes late.

Their reception was at Nelson Park, and the Duke asked if the children could be given a whole day's holiday from school (hopefully Hastings had the same privilege).

In reply to mayor J B Andrew's speech, the Duke handed him a written reply in a "large official envelope" as he had done in Hastings.

The display of affection towards the royals seemed to be far more exuberant in Napier, with hats thrown in the air and children cheering until they were hoarse. Even the returned servicemen couldn't contain themselves and broke ranks to surround the couple before the royals left for the Masonic Hotel.

Napierites wanted more of a royal fix and began chanting outside the Masonic Hotel, "We want the Duke" and "We want the Duchess".

The royals were having afternoon tea, but obliged and appeared on the balcony for a few moments, bowing in acknowledgement.

The Duke then went to the Hawke's Bay Club for a game of tennis – where he was partnered by J Lowry and opposed by Dr Harvey and D Kettle. The Duke – who was described as more than capable with a racquet - won (perhaps not unsurprisingly) with his partner. He then returned to the Masonic for dinner with his wife.

Marine Parade's Norfolk Island pines had a string of red, white and blue lights put up for the visit from where Ocean Spa is now to the Dome. HMS Renown, anchored in the bay, shone its searchlight, which flickered in the waves, adding to the spectacle.

A band played and eventually at 9pm it performed God Save the King to indicate the evening was over. Ten thousand people, however, refused to go home and waited in the hope that the Duke and Duchess would come out on the balcony once more.

Just as crowds began to depart at 9.30pm, the Duchess "bareheaded and in evening dress" came to the balcony. The "witchery of the Duchess' smile" and the wave of her hand was said to be enough to be a "signal for a mighty volley of cheers".

She was soon followed by the Duke. "Where is the band?" asked the Duke and Duchess. It had gone home. The couple stayed for 15 minutes, to the "unrestrained joy of the crowd".

The Duke made a "little farewell speech" and the Duchess smiled and waved, and the Napierites all trotted off to bed happy. It was reportedly the moment of the 1927 tour.

The royal couple did not stay the night at the Masonic but in the royal coach which, for the purposes of safety and to avoid everyone passing through it continually, was the last on the train.

Next morning they left at 8am from the Napier Railway Station. Crowds had gathered to farewell them, but were disappointed when they failed to show.

In June 1927, the Duke and Duchess were reunited with Princess Elizabeth after six months away.

After King George V's death in 1936, the Duke's older brother became King Edward VIII. However, upon his abdication in December 1936 to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, Albert took the regal (monarch) name and became King George VI.

He reigned until his death in 1952, when his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, became Queen.

To avoid confusion with her daughter, the King's widow, who also had the title of Queen Elizabeth, became known as the Queen Mother. She died on March 30, 2002, at 101.

• Michael Fowler ( is a freelance writer, contract researcher and speaker of Hawke's Bay's history.