Royal Reactions (part two)

On 17th of this month I posted the first part of a two part feature on the royal family and Manchester City. Now, as promised, here’s the second part focusing on visits to Manchester City by the UK monarchs over the decades plus a few other snippets. Enjoy this free to read article…

Before I start with part two here’s a link to the first part of the feature:

Over the years Manchester City has proved to be a very popular club for visits by significant members of the British Royal family and of other nations’ royalty.  Whether this has anything to do with the club’s success, the stadium’s importance, or the role of Manchester in terms of industry and commercial activity is unclear (probably a bit of all of that!). There have been two major royal visits to Maine Road and there has been a significant visit to the club’s former ground at Hyde Road (though some people incorrectly think there have been two!). In addition, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh plus other senior royals visited the City of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad) twice for the Commonwealth Games. Prince Philip was creating history by becoming the first senior member of the Royal family to visit two of City’s venues. 

The first Royal visit to Maine Road was on 20 October 1934 when the Duke of York (future King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father) watched City’s 1-0 defeat by Derby County.  Prior to the match the Duke was introduced to both sides and then he took his seat at the front of the Directors’ Box. The previous year he had witnessed City’s FA Cup final defeat to Everton at Wembley.

The next major Royal visit came on Thursday 7 May 1964 when Prince Philip witnessed a City-United derby match. The game had been organised by the Variety Club of Great Britain as a charity fund raiser for underprivileged children, and it had been hoped a capacity crowd of over sixty thousand would be present, however appalling weather limited the attendance to approximately 36,000. Philip, as with the Duke of York thirty years earlier, sat in the Directors’ Box, although this time, according to newspaper reports the box had been decked out with flowers and was christened the Royal Box for the evening.

The game ended with Philip presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Cup to United’s captain Denis Law on the pitch in the pouring rain. Thousands of children, according to local reports, swarmed on to the pitch, as the Duke became drenched. Interestingly, Philip’s visit to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 also saw him suffer with the rain. Perhaps he remembered his 1964 visit as he waited for the 2002 Games to end!

City’s current stadium has welcomed a variety of international royal guests, including the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, who attended City v Liverpool in March 2017, while Maine Road saw several visits by middle eastern princes and others over the years. 

The most significant Royal visit of all to a City venue has to be the 1920 appearance of King George V at Hyde Road. This was the first visit to a provincial ground by a reigning monarch and as such is of immense importance. A month or so earlier the King had gone to watch a FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Leicester.

Subscribers can read more on that visit here:

It has been suggested that twenty years earlier, however, Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), attended Hyde Road. This is a myth – please don’t believe it! I’m always keen on finding evidence and the author who propagated this story actually mistook City director Joshua Parlby for the future King on a photograph! 

I’ve performed extensive research on this so-called visit and have revealed in earlier books (most notably Farewell To Maine Road in 2003) that the visit did not occur. As with all myths I try to work backwards to understand how these things take hold and why some become convinced (don’t get me started on the myth about Anna Connell!). I find it helps to get to the source because that way it becomes clear why someone who hasn’t performed detailed research becomes convinced. So, here’s the story of how some authors have incorrectly claimed a royal visit in 1900…

Back in 1930 City’s first true history, Manchester City Football Club Souvenir History by Fred Johnson, stated: ‘The Hyde Road ground was honoured with the presence of His Majesty the King on March 27th 1900 when Liverpool were opposed.’ This is clearly a typographical error as the incident it refers to is the visit of King George on 27 March 1920 (Liverpool were the visitors). 

This explains the birth of the error but a photograph has also been produced by one author ‘showing’ the King at Hyde Road. It shows nothing of the sort and the photo (below) is clearly a red herring. It is Hyde Road (the stand in the background is the Stone Yard Stand) but the two gentlemen wearing top hats have been claimed to be leading royals with the one closest to the camera supposedly future King Edward. However, he is not. I’ve compared these photos to others in my collection and published in the early 1900s. These images are actually from the visit of future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in September 1900.

Balfour was the only significant visitor that day and his head actually appears on the image (between the ladies and the top-hatted men). One of the women is described as Balfour’s daughter on another photo from this day. The top-hatted gent at the back is City director W. Richmond (director between 1896 and 1902), while the other top-hatted man looks an awful lot like Joshua Parlby (the club’s former manager and a director in 1900). 

Regardless of this myth, it is amazing that three successive monarchs had attended City’s grounds, albeit in George VI’s case he was still Duke of York when he attended Maine Road in 1934.   

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