Skip to content
City Stories

The King in Leicester - A History of Royal Visits

  • King George V and Queen Mary visited Leicester in 1919, visiting N. Corah & Sons
  • Leicester was officially reinstated as a city by King George V in 1919
  • King George VI praised the war efforts of the people of Leicester during a visit to the City

Leicester has had a long historic association with the Kings of England. Leicester Castle hosted King Henry III, King Edward II and, later, King Richard II in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the five year old King Henry VI in 1427. Famously, King Richard III met his end on Bosworth Field in 1485 and was buried in Leicester, while King Charles I was a frequent visitor during the English Civil War in the mid-1600s.

The citizens of Leicester warmly welcomed two kings during the twentieth century, King George V in 1919 and King George VI in 1946.

June 1919

King George V and his Queen Consort Mary received a joyous welcome to the city on 10th June 1919. London Road, Granby Street and Gallowtree Gate were packed with cheering, flag-waving crowds, and church bells rang out from Leicester churches. Their majesties arrived in the Royal Train at Midland Station and were greeted with a 21-gun salute and a band playing the National Anthem.

The King and Queen greeting crowds in Leicester

Their first official engagement was to open the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors Club in Bond Street where they spoke to ex-servicemen and staff. Afterwards, they toured the N. Corah and Sons hosiery manufacturers at St. Margaret’s Works, which had contributed millions of knitted goods to the armed forces. On their departure, the Queen was presented with an ivory silk coat trimmed with rabbit wool collar and cuffs, and a selection of hosiery.

At De Montfort Hall, the King presented medals for service and conduct to members of the military. He also bestowed honours on civilians for their service to Leicester throughout the war. The Town Clerk H.A. Pritchard read out an address from the Mayor of Leicester issuing ‘a hearty welcome to our ancient borough and one time city’.

After taking lunch at the Leicester Museum on New Walk, King George and the Queen were taken to Victoria Park to view a march past of over 3,500 regular servicemen, demobbed men and volunteer regiments. Fifteen hundred school children sang the National Anthem. The final engagement for the royal couple was a visit to Stoughton Street to meet the scientific instrument makers Messrs. Taylor, Taylor and Hobson. The royal couple were shown war products and learned about the process of lens making.

King George V passes by crowds gathered near The Clock Tower. Photo courtesy of Leicester Mercury

The 1919 visit was memorable for the people of Leicester in more ways than one. On 16th June 1919, the front page of the Leicester Mercury newspaper featured a letter to the Mayor from the Home Secretary. It stated how much the King and Queen had enjoyed their visit and, more importantly, announced that the King was restoring ‘the Ancient Town’ of Leicester to a city.

October 1946

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a state visit to Leicester on Wednesday 30th October 1946 shortly after the end of the Second World War. The chief reason for their visit was to pay tribute to the people of the city for their efforts during the conflict.


King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the balcony of Leicester Town Hall, 1944. Leicestershire Record Office

In June 1944, 10,400 evacuees came to Leicester and were billeted in homes around the city. The first official engagement of their Royal Highnesses was at De Montfort Hall where they personally thanked the billeting officers, welfare officers and others who managed the huge task of placing every evacuee with a Leicester family. The Queen also praised the matrons of Leicester Royal Infirmary and the City General Hospital, and the organiser of the Women's Voluntary Service for their contributions to the war effort. The Royal party then began a round of visits to industries in the city which had played a part in manufacturing munitions and products for the armed forces including the plastic toy manufacturers Cascelloid on Abbey Lane. On visiting Wolsey Ltd at the Abbey Park Mills, the Queen was presented with a pair of fully fashioned nylon stockings in return for which she gave her clothing coupons.

Watch a film of King George VI addressing an audience at De Montfort Hall in Leicester:

British Pathe website (1 minute 34 seconds)

Next Page:

The King in Leicester: 1980s