Royal Tour of Commonwealth 1953-54

Scope and Content

A collection of photographs by various photographers. Captions are derived from information on the back of some photographs and from official programmes and published books on the tour.
H.M. King George VI was anxious to undertake a major post-war tour of the Commonwealth, but was prevented by ill-health. It was therefore agreed that H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and H.R.H. Duke of Edinburgh would travel to East Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and they flew from London airport on the first stage of the tour on 31 January 1952. King George died on 6 February and the new Queen was recalled from Kenya. However, the undertaking was only postponed, and within 5 months of her coronation in June 1953, the Queen embarked on the most ambitious Royal Tour ever undertaken. The Queen and the Duke left London by plane in November and visited Bermuda, thence to Jamaica where they boarded S.S. 'Gothic' which was to be their base for the remainder of the tour. After visits to Fiji and Tonga, 'Gothic' reached New Zealand on 23 December for a stay of over a month. February and March were spent in Australia and the return journey included Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Malta, where the Queen and the Duke were reunited with their two children and whence they sailed via Gibraltar to London on the new Royal Yacht 'Britannia'.
During the Royal Tour the Library maintained an exhibition of invitations, programmes and other items and also collected photographs. The following list includes prints supplied by Branches of the Society and other sources, including the Central Office of Information, as well as some purchased from agencies for publication in United Empire. They do not claim to be a comprehensive record, but illustrate most major stages of the Royal Tour from New Zealand onwards.

Access Information

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Acquisition Information

The photographs were collected by the Library in 1953-54.


Includes index.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection can be found on ArchiveSearch.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some of these photographs have suffered from flood water damage and many of them are curled with a few splits at the edges, but the print surfaces themselves are in generally good condition.

Related Material

A comprehensive collection of photographs of the Queen's short, but very busy visit to Bermuda can be found in Y3011XX and her visit to Bermuda House of Assembly in Y3070D. For Fiji see Y3091D and Y3091E/178-179.

Additional Information

This collection level description was entered by SG using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Royal Empire Society Library