A Royal Visit to the Falls
Queen Elizabeth receiving flowers from children

Throughout the years, Niagara Falls has certainly seen more than its fair share of Royal visitors. On June 7th of this week, it is the 80th anniversary of one such visit. It also was the first visit ever by a reigning British monarch to Canada. I am sure that many of us have grown up hearing stories from our parents and grandparents about where they were when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Niagara Falls in 1939.

The royal couple entered port in Quebec City aboard the Empress of Australia. They then travelled across Canada on the Blue and Gold Royal train, with three convertible sedans providing additional transportation. Their train arrived in St. Catharines where they then transferred to a Lincoln convertible to enjoy a comfortable and sunny ride to Niagara Falls accompanied by a 52 motorcycle police escort.

After stopping briefly at Queenston and the Whirlpool Aero car, the royal couple made their way to the reception at the Niagara Parks Commission Administration building. When their automobile passed through the Mowat Gates at the entrance to Queen Victoria Park, a radio beam was triggered which unveiled the corner stone of the new Rainbow Bridge which was being built to replace the ice-ruined Falls View Bridge.

When they arrived at the administration building, they were greeted by many local dignitaries. Young David Hanniwell, the mayor’s son provided some comic relief when he refused to offer his flowers to the Queen because, as he said, “they were not wearing the king’s hats.” After retiring for tea, the couple then made their way to Table Rock for a special viewing of the famous cataracts. It was noted that King George, who had viewed the falls a number of years before, took great pleasure in pointing out many features to the Queen, since it was her first visit.

The king and queen then proceeded to the General Brock Hotel amid the cheers of thousands of well-wishers who lined the route behind three miles of rope used to keep the crowds at bay. Twelve thousand school children, assembled on the Oneida Community’s lawn, waved their Union Jack flags and sang God Save the King. Upon hearing that some of the children from Welland had missed their initial appearance on the third floor balcony, the King and Queen made a second appearance to the delight of the crowds.

Whilst dining in the Rainbow Room, the royal couple also enjoyed a special royal illumination of the falls. After dinner, it was time to make their way back to the Bridge Street railway station where a 21 gun royal salute marked their departure. 
The 1939 Royal visit was certainly a tremendous success and I am sure we will be hosting many more royal visitors in the years to come. If you would like to view more historic photos of other royal visits, please visit our website at my.nflibrary.ca. As well, if you are out and about on Canada Day, please visit the Library booth on Queen Street to check out our brand new Royal Visits pop-up poster.

Cathy Roy is the Local History Librarian.

Library Notes


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Throughout the years, Niagara Falls has certainly seen more than its fair share of Royal visitors. On June 7th of this week, it is the 80th anniversary of one such visit. It also was the first visit ever by a reigning British monarch to Canada.


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