His Majesty King George V Colonel in Chief of the Royal Marines
On 2nd January, HRH the Duke of York, now His Majesty King George V, was made Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Marine Forces, in 1901 the corps numbered 19,800, an office which he graciously continued to hold on his accession to the throne in 1910.
On the 26th February he sailed in the Ophir for a tour of the Dominions and Colonies, returning in November and was accompanied by Royal Marines from the RMLI and Band.
The Royal Couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, the future King George V and Queen Mary travelled on board HMS Ophir, a steamer specially commissioned for the Tour.
At the time, the Tour was the largest undertaken by a member of the Royal Family, covering 45,000 miles in seven months. It visited Gibraltar, Malta, Aden (now part of Yemen), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa and Canada. The Tour was originally intended to be made by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in order to thank the people of the British Empire for their contributions in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) but also to provide an opportunity for a member of the Royal Family to open the first Parliament of Australia following the country's federation in 1900.
However, following the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, it was decided that the new heir to the throne would make the journey instead. George opened the Parliament at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne on 9 May 1901. In 1903, the event was commemorated by the Australian artist, Tom Roberts, in a large painting presented to King Edward VII in 1904 (see RCIN 407587). Popularly known as the 'Big Picture', the painting now hangs at Parliament House, Canberra.
A special RM detachment under the command of Major C Clarke was embarked; also the Band of the Chatham Division RMLI, which in commemoration of their services was granted the 'White Rose of York' to be worn on their helmets and caps.
All images with kind permission of The Royal Collections Trust and © His Majesty King Charles III 2023