Royal Visit of 1953-54

Page 6 – A loyal people

A loyal people

While in Wellington, the capital, the Queen fulfilled her constitutional role. She opened Parliament and invested New Zealanders with honours. As head of the Church of England she laid the foundation stone of the Anglican cathedral, and as head of the Commonwealth’s armed forces she laid a wreath at the Cenotaph. Such events emphasised the loyalty of New Zealanders to the British Empire and Commonwealth.

Some contemporaries saw the tour as publicising the monarch’s status as ‘Queen of New Zealand’, as giving recognition to a new independence within the Empire of a self-governing dominion.

It is also true there was some concern from the Returned Services’ Association (RSA) that its interests had been overlooked. After complaints, the Cenotaph wreath-laying was added to the itinerary and it was suggested that RSA representatives might be presented at local receptions and servicemen line the streets. A request that the Queen lay the foundation stone for an extension to the Auckland War Memorial Museum was turned down. But she did visit Devonport naval base, Whenuapai air force base, Burnham army camp and a disabled servicemen’s training centre in Christchurch.

Throughout the tour, New Zealanders expressed their pride in being part of Britain’s empire. The flags they waved were Union Jacks, not the New Zealand ensign; the films they showed the Queen were British films; and the songs which were sung while crowds waited outside hotels for the royal couple to appear included ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘Sussex, Sussex by the Sea’, and ‘There’ll Always Be An England’.

As the Rotorua Post commented when the tour was over:

Few can have failed to see in the young Queen the embodiment of all the glories of England and Empire of which they read as children in their history books; of the seadogs, the yeomen and bowmen, the explorers and the scientists and the men of words and letters who made the world their oyster and tilled the cultural soil in which we have our roots. The Queen is the stuff of British history.

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'A loyal people', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Jul-2020