In 1901, while the Anglo-Boer War was still raging, the future King George V and his wife arrived in Cape Town. The city put on a show that has probably never been equalled.
Here you can see the archway celebrating the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in Adderley Street, with Table Mountain showing through, top left.
Everyone is craning their necks to see the royal couple, including the troops guarding the processions.
So how did this all come about?
Designed to thank the Empire for its support during the war, the future king was sent off in 1901 on a journey of eight months, during which he is said to have travelled 50,000 miles without ever leaving British soil.
Their tour included Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa, Canada, and the Colony of Newfoundland.
George presented thousands of specially designed South African War medals to colonial troops. In South Africa, the royal party met civic leaders, African leaders, and Boer prisoners, and was greeted by elaborate decorations, expensive gifts, and fireworks displays.
Cape Town railway station was beautifully decorated.
Despite this, not all residents responded favourably to the tour.
Many Cape Afrikaners resented the display and expense, the war having weakened their capacity to reconcile their Afrikaner-Dutch culture with their status as British subjects. Critics in the English-language press decried the enormous cost at a time when families faced severe hardship.
Here was the arch that led into Woodstock – one of Cape Town’s poorer areas.
There was hardly a part of Cape Town that escaped the royal attention.
There was another arch along Sir Lowry Road….
…and a huge welcome in Simonstown, which was used by Royal Navy when in South African waters.
The church was also involved with the laying of the foundation stone of St George’s Cathedral.
Degrees were handed out at the University of the Cape of Good Hope (later the University of Cape Town.) They were hailed by African chiefs and given gifts of Basotho ponies.
But perhaps the highlight of the visit was in Dix’s cafe.
This wonderful description explains why:
Until 1913 Cape Town had a cafe which specialised in old Cape dishes. It was Dix’s Bun Shop, which had several addresses since Mr. Daniel Dix opened his first bakery and cake-shop in Longmarket Street in 1845. Buns cost a penny at that time and for many years afterwards. The firm became famous for huge, appetising buns; and in 1895 they opened Dix’s Cafe, 25, Adderley Street, and started catering for banquets. They had foreign chefs and confectioners, but the undisputed ruler of the sosatie and bredie section of the business was an old Coloured cook named Susie. It is on record that her cooking was far superior to that of the imported chefs. Dix’s was Cape Town’s leading cafe during the South African War. When the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited Cape Town, the Mayor’s banquet was held at Dix’s Cafe. Dix’s had other cafes in the town and wedding cakes were made at the branch in Strand Street. The Adderley Street cafe, with its Oak and Moorish rooms, was burnt out in June, 1902.
Thanks to Sherry Stanton, I now have an image of Dix’s Cafe, from the UCT Special Collection. And here it is!