Brian Waddington recalls a royal occasion, attended by his father Frank as a seventeen-year-old worker
On 26 April, 1923, Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, George V, married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at Westminster Abbey.
Albert later adopted the name of George VI on acceding to the throne following the abdication of Edward VIII and reigned until 1952 when he died. His widow became the beloved Queen Mother and survived until the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The principal guest list for the wedding reads like a roll-call of all the royal families in Europe. All the great and the good of the country were also present. But not only the rich and famous were invited. The guests also included my father.
Prince Albert had taken a great interest in the industrial growth of the country following the ravages of the First World War and was president of the Industrial Welfare Society. He requested that a young person representative of each of the principal industries in the kingdom should be present.
My father, then aged seventeen, was selected by his employer, a member of the society, to represent the wool textile industry, at that time the mainstay of the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Frank Dudley Waddington, as my father was named, was born in Idle, near Bradford, on 1 August 1905, along with his twin brother William. His father, also called William, was a weaving overlooker in a textile factory and was also a talented violinist.
Frank had an older sister, Nellie, and two other brothers, Harry and Edward. Like most children at that time he was educated at the local school which he left at the age of thirteen. He then took up employment with G Garnett & Sons Ltd, of Valley Mills, Apperley Bridge, an adjoining suburb, where he trained as a textile designer. This involved attendance at Bradford Technical College several evenings a week.
My father and the other industrial representatives travelled to London and were entertained in the Bennington Hotel, Southampton Row, the evening before the wedding.
Here is his description of the actual wedding ceremony: “We were up in the north triforium, all fresh-faced youngsters dressed in our best suits, looking eagerly over the balcony for the various celebrities assembled below us. The scene was extremely impressive.
“I felt that here was a symbol of England’s heritage and that I was taking part in a ceremony which would go down in history. The massed effect of the coloured uniforms, the great echoing organ, and the lovely choral singing, all built up into a very moving moment.
“At last Lady Elizabeth appeared, dressed in white and followed by her pages, and by some strange coincidence at almost precisely the moment she reached the altar the sun broke through and streamed down from the stained-glass windows. It was really the crowning effect of the whole ceremony.
“As the service proceeded we could hear the clear voice of the Archbishop of York quite plainly, but the responses we were unable to catch. After the marriage ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of York went behind the altar, and I remember we all stood on tiptoe trying to catch a glimpse of them.”
There is a sequel to this story as in 1948 the royal couple celebrated their silver wedding with a commemorative service at the abbey. My father contacted the Industrial Welfare Society to see if there was any chance of him being able to attend.
At first this seemed to be a possibility but then someone realised that if one of the industrial representatives was invited it would be only right to consider all the others.
After twenty-five years, this would be well-nigh impossible so sadly arrangements could not be made for him to be present. However, the society did contact the BBC and arrangements were made for my father to record his impressions of the original service for inclusion in a special programme to be transmitted on the evening of the 26 April.
Our family still has the original script of the whole broadcast, which recorded highlights of the royal couple’s life over the preceding twenty-five years. This, of course, included the period of the Second World War, which was still very fresh in people’s minds at that time.
There were contributions from both ordinary and famous people whose lives had been enriched by contact with the King and Queen. Names that are still well-known included Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Tommy Handley, Dennis Compton and Anthony Blunt, then Keeper of the King’s Picture and later to be exposed as a Soviet agent!
Later this year, on 20 November, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their seventieth wedding anniversary. Why not send your memories of the wedding celebrations to Down Your Way?