The other King’s speech

The Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) being met by dignitaries at Portsmouth Grammar School in 1928. The headmaster, Canon Barton, is on the left.
The Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) being met by dignitaries at Portsmouth Grammar School in 1928. The headmaster, Canon Barton, is on the left.
Opening of the new school by the home secretary in October 1927. The headmaster, Canon Barton, is on the lowest step, on the left. Dorothea Barton is possibly there, somewhere. (PGS Archive)

NOSTALGIA: A red bluestocking at Portsmouth Grammar School

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This is the story of the other King’s Speech.

It was delivered at Portsmouth Grammar School in 1928 by the Prince of Wales who went on, briefly, to become King Edward VIII.

King George VI inspecting Portsmouth Grammar School cadets at camp at Aldershot in 1948

King George VI inspecting Portsmouth Grammar School cadets at camp at Aldershot in 1948

The prince visited the school having just enjoyed ‘a very good lunch’ with officers of the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers at Victoria Barracks (which stood on the site of Pembroke Park).

Canon Barton, the headmaster (on the left in this picture), asked the prince if, at the end of his speech, he would grant the boys the day off in honour of his visit.

According to the school’s archivist John Sadden, the prince nodded and cleared his throat.

John said: ‘Addressing the whole school, he announced that he wasn’t going to give a long speech – prompting a relieved cheer from the boys – but instead granted the whole school a week off, which brought an even bigger cheer that echoed around the quad.

The 'Royal family = King George VI with the Queen Mother and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose passing the war-damaged Lower School at Portsmouth Grammar School in 1947.

The 'Royal family = King George VI with the Queen Mother and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose passing the war-damaged Lower School at Portsmouth Grammar School in 1947.

‘The reaction of the headmaster isn’t recorded, but one can imagine those caps being thrown high into the air. It is rumoured that Canon Barton ordered the boys to return a week early from their summer break to make up for it.’

Traditionally, the school cap was waved or thrown into the air as a way of celebrating, as we can see in this photo.

The other two PGS-related pictures show the subject of the Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech – Edward VIII’s younger brother and the Queen’s father, King George VI.

The shot of him and the Queen Mother and the two princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose was taken as they passed the war-damaged Lower School in 1947. They had just returned, in HMS Vanguard, from a tour of South Africa.

The school was hit by incendiary bombs on October 7, 1940, when much of the school’s archive was lost. If any readers have any pre-war photographs related to Portsmouth Grammar School, John is keen to hear from them. He can be contacted on (023) 9268 1391

The final photograph shows George VI inspecting PGS cadets at camp at Aldershot in 1948.