The Royal Variety Performance … 1951


The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held annually in the United Kingdom, which is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family. It usually takes place at one of several London theatres. The evening’s performance is a variety show consisting of family entertainment, including comedy, singing, dancing, magic and other speciality acts, and many of the performers and hosts are celebrities.
The origins of the Royal Variety Performance date back to 1912, when His Majesty King George V, and Her Majesty Queen Mary, agreed to attend a ‘Royal Command Performance’ at the Palace Theatre in London’s Cambridge Circus, in aid of the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund.
It became an annual event in 1921 and the BBC first provided live radio coverage in 1926 and 1960 saw the first television presentation.

Victoria Palace Theatre in 1951

Victoria Palace Theatre in 1951

In 1951 it was held at the Victoria Palace Theatre in the presence of Queen Elizabeth accompanied by Princess Margaret. King George VI  was too ill to attend and it was relayed to his sickbed in Buckingham Palace.

The audience was in for a surprise this year when the Royal Party arrived, for along with the Queen and Princess Margaret were nurses Ruth Beswetherick and Doreen Pearce, who had been nursing King George VI through his recent illness. His Majesty was too ill to attend the Victoria Palace but as the Queen told an enquiring Bud Flanagan: “He is going on very nicely, thank you.” And when told how sorry everyone was that His Majesty couldn’t attend, the Queen replied, ” So is he, but he is listening in.” Richard Murdoch and Kenneth Horne appropriately sang, “We’re very sorry someone isn’t here today and here’s a special message that we’d like the band to play” followed by “Here’s a health unto His Majesty.”




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