RICHARD KAY reveals the Queen shook 13,213 hands on her epic 1953 tour

Beat that William and Kate! As the Cambridges visit Jamaica, RICHARD KAY reveals the Queen shook 13,213 hands, delivered 157 speeches, heard the national anthem 508 times – and was away from her children for 173 days on her epic 1953 tour

  • In her 1953 trip the Queen opened seven parliaments and held 11 investitures 
  • She had also attended 223 receptions, banquets, balls and garden parties
  • Prince William and the Kate will arrive in Jamaica for a three-day tour next week

Of all the countless millions of photographs that have recorded the Queen’s long life, it may not be the most famous but it is certainly one of the most eccentric.

As she walked alongside Jamaica’s plume-hatted Governor, the briefest of smiles lit up her face at what was unfolding a few paces in front of her.

From the crowd a man had stepped forward, swept off his linen jacket and chivalrously laid it in her path over a puddle in the ground.

The royal couple at Jamaica’s Sabina Park, home of the country’s cricket team on the 1953 tour

Click, click and there was Warren Kidd preserved for ever in the midst of his gallantry as a modern-day Sir Walter Raleigh.

In the old pirate town of Kingston the deed, so reminiscent of the courtly Raleigh laying down his cloak to protect the feet of the Queen’s great Tudor namesake Elizabeth I, electrified a wildly excited crowd.

Even so, such a breach in royal protocol was frowned upon and Mr Kidd soon found himself, briefly, in the local jail.

It is unlikely there will be a repeat of such daring when the Queen’s grandson Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge arrive in Jamaica for a three-day tour next week.

For one thing, William’s itinerary, which is expected to include a visit to Trench Town, forever associated with Bob Marley, Jamaica’s most famous son, will be infinitely more gritty than the whirlwind of receptions, inspections, parades and soirees his grandmother attended almost 69 years ago.

But there is one poignant parallel: the duke and duchess will travel in the same open-top Land Rover that transported the Queen and Prince Philip through Sabina Park, where they were greeted by thousands of cheering schoolchildren, neatly standing row upon row, who serenaded the royal couple with Caribbean calypsos and verses from Greensleeves — another nod to that first Elizabethan era.

In all other respects, William and Kate’s experience will be vastly different.

Their tour is taking place against a background of the global Black Lives Matter campaign and amid growing uncertainty about the Royal Family’s role in its Caribbean realms.

Four months ago, Barbados removed the Queen as head of state and Jamaica looks set to follow its example.

Its prime minister, Andrew Holness, has said it is time for his country to follow Barbados, and last month daily newspaper The Gleaner called for a referendum on ‘Jamaica’s transition to a republic’.

In an editorial, the paper said it was ‘deeply uncomfortable’ having the British monarch as Jamaica’s head of state, adding: ‘The patriarch of a dysfunctional family in the United Kingdom that defined Jamaica’s long colonial experience is not…an appropriate symbol.’

So while this might suggest it will be a sensitive visit for the Cambridges, they do have one trump card: the couple present themselves as the contemporary and modern face of the Royal Family.

And it may just be that in channelling the huge success of his grandparents’ tour de force, William, with a glamorous Kate at his side, will reignite the Caribbean royal spirit kick-started all those years ago.

The couple have set off for their tour in Belize today — now somewhat overshadowed by a row over land rights for indigenous people — and it ends next Saturday under swaying palm trees in the Bahamas at an ecological project close to William’s heart. But it is their time in Jamaica that will determine whether the trip succeeds or fails.

The Queen on a visit to University Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica, on November 27 while on her epic 1953 trip 

Almost 11 years into their marriage, the duke and duchess are veterans of these royal tours; they are also older than the Queen and Philip were when they stepped foot in the Caribbean in 1953.

And while they have moved away from the glad-handing and waving that was so much a part of the monarch’s early overseas visits in favour of engagements featuring causes and charities, they have never encountered the vast crowds that awaited the Queen in Jamaica.

The visit was six months after the Coronation and her arrival with her handsome husband in the West Indies was the start of an epic Commonwealth tour that would last another six months. The Queen was just 27 and Philip 32.

In the course of the trip she opened seven parliaments, held 11 investitures, made four broadcasts, attended 223 receptions, banquets, balls and garden parties, laid 15 foundation stones, made 157 speeches and listened to another 276. God Save The Queen was sung 508 times.

She shook hands some 13,213 times, received 6,770 curtsies and accepted 468 gifts. The printed schedule of her many engagements ran to 130 small print pages.

Distances travelled included 18,850 miles by sea, 19,650 by air, 9,900 by road and 1,600 by rail. It also saw the maiden voyage of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Queen took along an entourage of 40, from ladies in waiting and private secretaries to maids and footmen, and the accompanying luggage was said to have weighed 12 tons.

In all, they were away from home and her young children — Prince Charles, five, and three-year-old Princess Anne — for 173 days, including Christmas Day. William and Kate, who will be accompanied by 15 staff, will be away for precisely a week.

The Queen’s trip was to take the young monarch round the world to the far-flung corners of the old empire, from Australia and New Zealand to Fiji, Tonga, the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Malta and Gibraltar.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chat to people on the promenade during their visit to Barry Island, South Wales in 2020

Such was the trip’s scale that on the eve of her departure Sir Winston Churchill moved a humble address in the House of Commons in which he declared: ‘This will be the first time in history that a British sovereign has circumnavigated the globe.’

With typical flourish, he said the Queen’s journey would be ‘no less auspicious and the treasure she brings back no less bright than when (Francis) Drake first sailed an English ship around the world.’

It still ranks as the longest royal tour ever. And it all began in the warm seas of the Caribbean.

With no idea how well the tour would be received, that realisation came when the royal BOAC Stratocruiser made a refuelling stop at Gander on Canada’s eastern seaboard in the early hours of November 23.

It was 4am but the airport was packed with people who had come hoping for a glimpse of their newly crowned sovereign.

Rather than disappoint them, the Queen dressed and left the aircraft while it was refuelled.

Her first proper stop was Bermuda, where she remained up fulfilling engagements until midnight.

Then, after just four hours’ sleep, she was back at the airport for the four-hour flight to Jamaica.

It was estimated that one sixth of the country’s citizens turned out to welcome her — around a quarter of a million people, an astonishing number for an island that then had a population of less than 1.5 million.

A New York Times correspondent wrote breathlessly of how she and Philip won local hearts by immediately driving 120 miles across the country ‘heedless of the blazing tropical sun’.

It took eight hours to complete this journey by road, so large were the crowds along the way.

There was also a detour — to the Silver Sands Beach Club, where the Queen fulfilled a long ambition to bathe in the warm seas of the Caribbean.

The woman they had all come to see looked then like a young Hollywood star, dainty and beautiful in a billowing blue-grey print silk dress, small pillbox hat and elbow-length white gloves.

Gloves were a feature of this tour. Rarely did she appear without wearing tropical white ones by day and a black pair at night. Jamaica’s radio station, meanwhile, endlessly played a calypso specially composed for the visit, Hip-Hooray For De Gracious Queen.

Her escort was Governor Sir Hugh Foot, brother of Labour firebrand and future party leader Michael. Among the Queen’s retinue was a young nobleman, Viscount Althorp, who was acting master of the royal household.

Before the tour was over he had to ask for leave of absence to fly home for his wedding. His bride was Frances Roche and their youngest daughter was a certain Lady Diana Spencer.

Apart from ensuring everything ran like clockwork behind the scenes, Lord Althorp, a keen photographer, made a cine film of the tour — just as he later did of Diana and her siblings at play — and which was premiered at a cinema in King’s Lynn, close to the Queen’s Norfolk home, Sandringham.

Not everything went smoothly. An army officer in charge of one parade ordered his company of men to give ‘three cheers for Her Majesty the King’ before quickly correcting himself. The Queen, however, was amused by the slip.

When Philip was not at her side — one morning he had an early polo match — the Queen could rely on her two ladies in waiting, Lady Pamela Mountbatten and Lady Alice Egerton.

Three years younger than the Queen, Lady Pamela, who was the daughter of Earl Mountbatten, had been a bridesmaid at her wedding.

Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge at the first Battalion Irish Guards’ St Patrick’s Day Parade at Mons Barracks this week 

Lady Alice, sister of the Duke of Sutherland, was described during the tour as ‘every foreigner’s idea of what a well-bred young Englishwoman looks like’. But eight years later she suffered a mental breakdown and tragically she committed suicide in 1977.

Unlike Kate and William’s trip, Jamaica was merely a staging post for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

For weeks the liner Gothic, its holds filled with a curious cargo of pianos, cars, wallpaper and brandy, was to be their home from home, taking them from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal and beyond to the Pacific.

By the time they were on the homeward leg, the royal couple were aboard the newly commissioned Britannia, which they joined at Tobruk in Libya.

It was during their final engagement on the island that they encountered Jamaica’s Walter Raleigh, who emerged from the crowd with the words: ‘Walk on my coat, Queen.’

She swerved both coat and puddle and Mr Kidd was quickly freed from police custody after a public outcry that he was guilty of nothing more than gallantry.

For the Queen there were bigger crowds to come — more than a million on the shoreline of Sydney harbour to catch a glimpse of her waterborne arrival — but she never forgot the warmth of that welcome in Jamaica.

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