The visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Belfast

JUNE 1921 saw the official opening of the Northern Ireland and the day was described that the News Letter as "a right royal day"

with the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary to the city. At 8 o'clock, with a drizzling rain, clouding both sides of the lough the tender Musgrave had left her moorings at the Albert Quay to where the Royal yacht, Albert and Victoria, was moored in the lough guarded by a flotilla of battleships and destroyers.

By 8:46am just after the Musgrave arrived beside the Royal yacht the Albert and Victoria lifted her anchors and gave the signal that they vessel was ready to travel down the channel to its berth at Donegall Quay.

As soon as the Royal Yacht had berthed the Harbour Commissioners, headed by the chairman the Rt Hon H M Pollock DL, MP, boarded for the King and Queen's first official engagement, one which was described by the paper as being "not the most spectacular" of the functions that the royal couple attended to that day, but it was regarded as one of the most important.

After leaving the yacht the Lord Lieutenant, Viscount FitzAlan, welcomed the Royal couple of Belfast and presented them to a number of distinguished naval and military officers, "who brilliant uniforms invested the scene with a vivid glow of colour".

There was "great animation and a good deal of bustle", but the perfect arrangements for the day ensured that the start of the Royal visit to the city started smoothly.

In its editorial of Thursday, June 23, the News Letter noted that the populace of Belfast "with the King and Queen in their midst, the people gave themselves up to a demonstration of loyalty and affection that must have touched the deepest feelings of their Majesties".

A "hurricane" of cheers broke out as soon as the King and Queen's procession reached Queen's Square where they were met by a throng of Belfast citizens.

The newspaper noted that people had been arriving into the city from early that morning by every mode transport available – special trains, motor cars, charabancs.

Thousands of people filled the route of the procession and at places loyal citizens had to stand twelve abreast to catch a glimpse of the monarchs. There was no serious crushing thanks to the efforts by the constabulary who were also assisted by the B Specials.

Overhead a fleet of aeroplanes hovered gracefully overhead "like huge birds" while every building along the route were festooned with streamers, flags and bunting.

The Royal procession travelled along the full length of High Street, Castle Place, Donegall Place and Donegall Square before arriving at City Hall for the grand opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament. And as the procession drew closer to the City Hall the Royal couple were greeted by buildings imposing and noble dome.

On arriving at City Hall the band struck up the national anthem in which "innumerable voices" joined. On alighting from the carriage the King was met by the city's Lord Mayor, Sir William Coates, the Prime Minister, Sir James Craig, who was attended by Colonel W B Spender, the acting secretary to the Northern Ireland Cabinet, and other important dignitaries.

The King then proceeded to inspect the guard of honour that consisted of men from the Royal Ulster Rifles and he "passed slowly up the line" while the Queen stood in the entrance of the City Hall.

It was noticed that the King stopped here and there to exchange a few words with some of the soldiers. The inspection over the King and Queen passed into the hall at 11.50am "just on the moment the timetable indicated", observed the News Letter.

The Union Jack which had flown with pride was lowered and its place was taken by the Royal Standard. And the scene was ready for the official opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament later that day.

Recalling the editorial of the

News Letter, Belfast received the following telegram which the Royal couple had asked the Lord Lieutenant to send to the city:

"The Queen and I are profoundly touched by the intense loyalty and enthusiasm with which we have been welcomed today by the vast numbers who were assembled to greet us in the beautifully decorated city of Belfast. We carry away with us the happiest and what will be lasting memories of this great and imposing occasion in the history of Ireland."