Chequered past of Royal visits

Alnwick prepares to welcome Edward VII.
Alnwick prepares to welcome Edward VII.

PAST Royal visits to Alnwick have not always been peaceful – take Malcolm III, King of Scotland, for example.

His arrival on the edge of town in 1093 was met by an English army and he was eventually slain near the Pastures by Arkil Morel, steward of Bamburgh Castle.

Alnwick prepares to welcome Edward VII.

Alnwick prepares to welcome Edward VII.

William the Lion fared little better, captured on Ratten Row as he attempted to put Northumberland under Scottish control in 1174.

And it wasn’t only monarchs from north of the border who made an unwelcome appearance in Alnwick.

In 1216, King John set fire to the town during his devastating expedition to the northern counties to quell his rebellious barons, although he had visited peacefully twice before, in 1209 and 1213.

His son, Henry III, made an appearance in Alnwick in 1256, while Edward I – the Hammer of the Scots – used the town as a staging point on numerous excursions north between 1291 and 1298.

The legendary William Wallace – arguably a king in all but title – unsuccessfully tried to lay siege to Alnwick Castle in 1297.

Both Edward II and III passed through Alnwick in 1311 and 1335, respectively, but the next major Royal visit – in 1403 by Henry IV – was a return to less cordial relations.

Having been the target of a coup led by Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy and his father, the Earl of Northumberland, Henry threatened to blow Alnwick Castle to pieces with cannons.

The Earl surrendered rather than lose his ancestral seat.

However, the king was forced to return the following year after yet another revolt by the Percys.

When James VI of Scotland succeeded to the throne of England, as James I, in 1603, his journey from Edinburgh to London is said to have passed through Alnwick.

And in the relative peace that followed the Union of the Crowns, Royal visits became the object of great celebration whenever the town played host.

In 1906, there was an enormous welcome in store for Edward VII, when bunting was strung over the streets and soldiers paraded through the town.

But the visit of the future King George V, two years later, must go down as one of the biggest civic occasions in Alnwick’s history.

Huge crowds gathered to see George, then Prince of Wales, with his wife, the future Queen Mary, arrive at Alnwick Railway Station on Monday, June 29.

The whole town was decorated to an enormous degree, with flowers and flags everywhere, literally covering the frontages of many buildings along the main streets.

A giant 20-foot-high wooden triumphal arch was built on the junction of South Road and Bondgate Without and covered with evergreens, carrying the message ‘A Loyal Welcome to Alnwick’.

The Alnwick and County Gazette – forerunner of the Northumberland Gazette – reported: “In fine weather, loyal little Alnwick, the county town of Northumberland, looked extremely attractive with its decorations and animated by great crowds of people when their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales, arrived on Monday afternoon.

“The townspeople were slow in planning to decorate their premises but when they did get fairly under way, they made a decorative display worthy of the occasion.

“Suddenly the echo of a mighty cheer reached us from the end of Bondgate and instantly there was a cry of ‘here they come’.

“Hats were loosened and handkerchiefs drawn from many a pocket so that they might be waved in welcome to their Royal Highnesses as they drove past.

“A gentleman in the forefront of the crown had donned a particularly natty neck-tie – simple but forceful in design. It was a red, white and blue stripe – one inch to the stripe.”