The last time a British King showed up in Niagara Falls was 1939


Published May 5, 2023 at 3:32 pm

The King George VI Statue. honouring the 1939 visit, still stands in Victoria Park, left. Meanwhile on the right, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth view Niagara Falls for the first time.

With Prince Charles about to be King Charles tomorrow (May 6), let’s look at the last king to visit Niagara Falls way back in 1939.

That would be Charles’ grandfather, King George VI, accompanied by his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (later known as the Queen Mother), and people were beside themselves at the time as it was the first-ever royal visit to Canada.

If the name King George VI rings a bell, it’s likely because the movie The King’s Speech – starring Colin Firth – told the inspiring tale of George VI, who overcomes his stammer as he reluctantly takes the throne after his brother, Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 over his plans to marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.

While his daughter, the late Queen Elizabeth, would visit Niagara Falls in 1951, she was still Princess Elizabeth at the time, though she was just four months away from coronation when King George VI died.

On the last day of the 1939 Royal Tour of Canada, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrived by train in St. Catharines on June 7 and then took a 30-minute scenic drive to Niagara Falls through Port Weller, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston.

The Royal Couple travelled in a 1939 Lincoln convertible to Niagara Falls from St. Catharines and then through streets of cheering spectators along Erie Avenue, Queen Street, Valley Way, Victoria Avenue and Clifton Hill.

While passing through Mowat Gate into Queen Victoria Park, the car triggered a radio beam which unveiled the cornerstone of the new Rainbow Bridge, which would be constructed across the Niagara River to the USA to replace the ice-wrecked Falls View (Honeymoon) Bridge.

Niagara Falls Mayor Carl D. Hanniwell offered the welcome address to King George, and in turn, 55 dignitaries were presented to the royal couple.

While it was the first visit for Queen Elizabeth,  it was actually the second for the king, who had paid an informal visit to Niagara as a midshipman on the H.M.S. Cumberland.

After viewing the falls, the couple moved on to the General Brock Hotel, where they greeted crowds and school children from the balcony.

The thick-piled red broadloom carpet on which the king and queen trod while visiting was converted into two rugs, which were moved into the offices of Mayor Hanniwell.

The visit was so well-received, as the local newspaper said the royal visit was the “greatest day in the city’s history.”

Left, a young boy and girl present Queen Elizabeth with flowers while right, the Royal Couple were all smiles.

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