3 May 1951 The Festival of Britain officially opened

King George VI inaugurated the Festival of Britain and opened the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

The festival was organised to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was intended to demonstrate Britain’s contribution to civilisation, past, present, and future, in the arts, in science and technology, and in industrial design.

After a special service attended by the King, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and other senior members of the royal family, King George declared the festival open in a broadcast from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Cheering and flag-waving crowds lined the route taken by the King and Queen to St Paul’s from BuckinghamPalace. At Temple Bar the procession stopped for a traditional ceremony in which the King was offered the Pearl Sword of the City.

The Lord Mayor of London, who enjoys precedence “of every subject” within the boundaries of the City of London, surrendered his sword, thus indicating the precedence of the Sovereign. The King then returned the sword and the Lord Mayor led the procession on to St Paul’s.

A 41-gun salute was fired at the Tower of London and Hyde Park.

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