The Last Hurrah: South Africa and the Royal Tour of 1947 by Graham Viney
In The Last Hurrah, Graham Viney has written a fascinating account of a pivotal moment in South African history. In vivid prose he describes the background to the Royal Tour and its progress across the country in the specially commissioned white train. More than this, Viney provides interesting analysis of the politics of the time and the society, fractious as ever, which welcomed King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
The tour was a show of Empire solidarity and a recognition of South Africa’s role and contribution to the Allied cause during World War II, and more specifically of Prime Minister Jan Smuts. Despite controversy, wherever the tour took the Royal Family, South Africans of all races turned out in their thousands to cheer and welcome them. But one year later, in 1948, Smuts’ government was defeated in a general election and the Nationalists under D.F. Malan came to power setting South Africa inexorably on the path to Republic. The tour had truly been British South Africa’s last hurrah.
The Last Hurrah draws on sources from far and wide, including the Royal Archive at Windsor, and a selection of never-before published photographs of the royal family on tour.
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The recent discovery in the cellar of a home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg of an old discoloured, brass plaque is a heritage opportunity and opens space for reviewing the motives and outcomes of the Royal Visit to South Africa in The current owner of the house does not know how the plaque came to be in the cellar of her home. She has generously passed the plaque on to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation for preservation.
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Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth 20 and Princess Margaret 16 followed and they were taken directly to the car White Train Palace on Wheels , their home for two months. Eight of the cars were specially made in England for the tour. They were cheered by millions of people of all races as they travelled through the country in the White Train, with short trips in a Daimler. The author keeps the reader in the time, place, political, major events and historical loop, brightened with detail like fairy lights. He gives dates and names and numbers cheering crowds at every place visited. The book is well researched. He acknowledges the Queen for material held in the Royal Archives at Windsor, and HRH Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, and thanks earls, lords and ladies, many libraries and a hundred or more friends and acquaintances of the Royal Family for letters, documents, memories and other material.
It is post-war, a time of austerity and snow in London. The King is, of course, travelling with a host of others besides his own family: an entourage, as well as commanders and crew, being a necessity for any royal travel at sea. We do not easily have access to the full documentary that was shown on the BBC in the historically momentous month of June for this is when Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip announce their engagement; it is only weeks before Partition; and it is a year before the Nationalist Party come into power in South Africa , but we do have clips — both those chosen by the editors for viewing at the time, and now a select archival collection of cuts, of unused footage. Some clips are thus narrated, some are silent, and there are certainly significant gaps. The commentary too is not always geographically accurate. However, though the royal family travel for some three months, what we see is mostly embarkations and arrivals, crowds waving, princesses playing on deck. But what other travels - by vessels and visitors — occur alongside the procession of the royal family itself?
The Last Hurrah by Graham Viney. For those of us interested in the history of our country and its peoples, The Last Hurrah does more than plump out the years following World War II, with this beautifully presented story of a visit which took place at an important turning point in the history of South Africa. The end of an era of the legendary Jan Smuts and a start of the horrendous years of Nationalist Government which did our country so much harm.
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Paragraph operations are made directly in the full article text panel located to the left. Paragraph operations include:., A royal train is a set of railway carriages dedicated for the use of the monarch or other members of a royal family. Most monarchies with a railway system employ a set of royal carriages.
In the British Royal Family embarked upon a world tour. It was the first overseas state visit since the outbreak of war in and was celebrated with much pomp and fanfare. The young Princess Elizabeth also celebrated her 21st birthday during the tour. South African Railways provided a newly built Royal Train, the Garratt locomotives of which were painted deep royal blue and which were used throughout the tour of Rhodesia. In total, there were three trains which travelled together. A Pilot Train ran 30 minutes in front of the white train and carried lesser officials, press officials and servants.