By JOHN T. WARD
It was a day unlike any ever seen before or since in Red Bank, turning hordes of area residents and visitors into Anglophiles, at least for a late-spring morning.
Imagine: an estimated 200,000 people jamming downtown Red Bank and the roadways through Little Silver, Fair Haven, Rumson and Sea Bright to catch a glimpse of the king and queen of England.
The brief bout of Anglomania reached fever pitch 80 years ago today, on Saturday, June 10, 1939. With Europe on the brink of war, and the royal Windsor family still shaking off the abdication of Edward VIII three years earlier, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to Red Bank.
The borough, then itself just 31 years old as an independent entity, was the only American small town to get the royal treatment, according to reports.
The visit came near the end of a monthlong tour, by train, across Canada and back, and then into the northeastern United States. It was the first time a British monarch had set foot in America.
Heading from Washington. D.C. to New York City, a lacquered-roof royal railcar traveled from Trenton east through Jamesburg and Freehold, and finally to the freight yard alongside Pearl Street in Red Bank, where it arrived at 6 a.m., according to news reports.
There, the royal carriage sat for two hours before proceeding a few hundred yards into the train station for a reception by Governor A. Harry Moore, the aptly named Mayor Charles English, and thousands of onlookers.
The pomp and circumstance lasted all of five minutes, starting with the 9:09 a.m. royal debarking from the train. It included greetings by the governor and mayor; introductions of their wives; the presentation of a proclamation; the Fort Hancock band playing “God Save the King;” and a review of a guard of honor by the king.
The royal entourage was then “whisked through town in a closed car,” according to the Red Bank Register.
From the Register,’s June 15 edition:
The procession slowed down as it approached [Red Bank] high school, where school children had been assembled early in the morning, but failed to stop as many had anticipated it would. Many of the children declared later that they had not seen the royal couple; in fact they did not seem to know in which car they were riding.
The cars picked up greater speed as they ascended Towerhill and continued to Rumson road, through that thoroughfare to Sea Bright and along Ocean avenue to Sandy Hook, where the royal pair embarked on the U.S. Destroyer Warrington for New York city and its tumultuous welcome.
The procession picked up speed leaving Red Bank, slowing’ down, slightly at Rumson, where Mayor James Auchincloss was entertaining a party of friends on his lawn. At Buena Vista avenue 400 school children and their friends with the Rumson High school band and a fife and drum corps were on hand to shout “God Save the King!”
Also in Rumson, St. Georges-by-the-River Episcopal Church, whose carillon consisted of 25 bells “cast from the forges of Loughborough, England,” was to peal “God Save the King” as the royal party passed nearby, the Register reported.
Along the way were some 200,000 well-wishers waving both the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack flags, according to the New York Times.
From Sandy Hook, the king and queen traveled to lower Manhattan, where they were welcomed by some 3.5 million onlookers, the Times reported. After a visit to the World’s Fair, in Queens, they then spent a few days relaxing at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s family home at Hyde Park, where, to the consternation of his mother, the president gave the queen her first-ever hot dog.
Later that summer, Roosevelt also paid a visit to the borough.
In 1976, Red Bank Mayor Daniel J. O’Hern invited Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to re‐create the visit during a visit to the former British colonies for America’s Bicentennial, but the invitation came to naught.