University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Time Capsule

Regal Reception

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth enjoy a visit to U of T in May 1939

Photo Courtesy of U of T archives/a1973-0050/002p(01)

In April, royal-watchers will be celebrating the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Seventy-two years ago, Torontonians were enraptured by a more minor royal event: the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at U of T for an elegant luncheon in Hart House’s Great Hall. The couple was visiting Canada, travelling from one end of the Dominion to the other.

Five hundred guests attended the luncheon, including U of T president Henry John Cody and his wife, Barbara, Hart House warden J.B. Bickersteth and Toronto mayor Ralph Day. Hart House kitchen staff prepared the meal, which included grain-fed chicken sautéed with mushrooms, caramelized yams and petits fours.

Despite the King’s fondness for moselle, the event was alcohol-free. Although U of T officials were willing to override their alcohol prohibition for the royals, the King respectfully drank soda water brought by his staff.

Prior to the meal, Queen Elizabeth attended another event at the university: as colonel-in-chief of the Toronto Scottish Regiment, she presented new colours to the unit on back campus.

After the luncheon, the King and Queen emerged from Hart House to cheers from 12,000 gathered admirers. In the warden’s report, he remarked, “Their Majesties drove away leaving behind them lovely memories of an unforgettable day in the history of Hart House.”

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