Skip to page contents


Visit of King George VI in 1945

Manfred Kosten (Mining Geology 1949)
In November 1945, having just started my course, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Imperial College’s Centenary Ball in the Albert Hall. At that stage of my life my knowledge of ballroom dancing was on a par with that of mining geology but such an opportunity was not to be missed and my cousin offered to provide a crash course in waltz and quickstep on the condition that I took her as my partner.

By pure chance we found ourselves dancing on a sparsely populated promenade arena when the King and Queen appeared in the stalls immediately above us. I retain the vivid image of a smiling King then turning to the Queen, proffering his hand in an invitation to dance and how they began to dance, with not a single security person in attendance, in a close proximity to a few couples – including ourselves.

Many people sitting in the stalls noticed what was happening and a surge of dancers entered from all access points, inevitably pushing us towards the royal couple. As a result, I experienced what was clearly a royal elbow in the small of my back whilst, almost simultaneously, members of the royal entourage, having spotted the danger, ushered the couple back up the stairs to an accompaniment of much applause and cheering. A rare honour indeed!

Gwyneth Rankin (BSc ARCS Botany 1944)
I am delighted to be able to add the full story to Manfred Korsten’s reminiscence. The centenary was a very grand occasion and once the presentations were over, everybody mixed freely and the King and Queen talked with every student who drifted near. There came a moment when six of us girls found ourselves talking to the Royal couple on our own. We knew that the King and Queen loved ballroom dancing and I said “would your majesties like to join us?” and she looked at him with a sparkle in her eye and said “It would be fun wouldn’t it!” On that spontaneous invitation they came with us – out of the back door of the room and across to the Albert Hall! From there on Manfred’s memory is absolutely correct! There were not many couples on the floor, and since the King and Queen’s visit was quite unscheduled it was only because some of the band spotted them standing with us, and stopped what they were playing that anyone looked! This happy episode could never have happened if the modern press had been around, hyping it all up and putting their preferred spin on what took place. Imagine!

Alan Burdett (Mechanical Engineering 1950)
During the formal part of the evening the King made a speech which he started rather hesitantly, his stammer being evident at times. We students were all standing in the centre of the hall and we showed the then normal sign of student approval at appropriate times, by stamping noisily on the floor. This interrupted his speech, but noticed that he started laughing and became visibly more relaxed and a rapport developed. Some days later, we heard that the College authorities had intended to give us a major dressing down for this but had been snookered by a personal message form the King, saying that he had not enjoyed an evening so much for some time! As a first year student it was an introduction to College life that I will never forget!

  © 2007 Imperial College London

Past projects
The Centenary Campaign

Through the first decade of the twenty-first century the campaign seeks to philanthropically raise £207 million from Imperial’s alumni, staff and friends, and donations from charitable foundations and industry.

Where your support can make a difference
Give now
Staff & student portraits
Staff and student portraits

Imperial’s Centenary Year provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate members of the Imperial community.

View staff and student portraits