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Royal Visit

In 1904, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited Kilkenny
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Roy

Inset: King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in the grandstand of the Kilkenny Agricultural Show 1904

Kilkenny Visit (30 April - 02 May)

In 1904, King Edward and Queen Alexandra travelled to Ireland for a semi-official 8-day visit. They were accompanied by their daughter-in-law, Princess Victoria.


They arrived in Dublin on 26 April, and stayed there for a few days, attending several events and ceremonies. After finishing in Dublin, the royals boarded their royal train for a three-day visit to Kilkenny.

For the arrival of the King and Queen, significant efforts were undertaken to ensure Kilkenny was elegantly presented. In the weeks and months prior, local businessmen convened meetings in how best to organise the occasion.

The city was heavily festooned with bunting and streamers, and the route from the railway station to the Castle was decorated with tiny fairy lights of every colour. During the visit, Princess Victoria planted 3 trees in the grounds of the Castle.


The visit was well-received in Kilkenny, although sometimes expressed in primitive fashion: an old man remarked "Sure, the King's a man after all", his wife correcting him "But he's a great man, and the lovely lady's an angel". Although well-supported, black flags protesting the visit were hung from some buildings along the route.

Day 1 - 30 April

Arrival at Kilkenny Railway Station


Arriving in Kilkenny at 1:17pm, the Royals were met by an elaborate reception at the station. 


The Marquess and Marchioness of Ormonde, with their 2 daughters, were the first to greet the Royal arrivals. The Bishop, Mayor, deputations from several local bodies and other towns, and a guard of honour from the Irish Engineers were in waiting.


As soon as the King and Queen ascended a small platform, several addresses were presented to King Edward, who replied to them collectively, and bouquets were offered to the Queen and Princess.

Arrival at Kilkenny Castle

The Royal party drove from the station to the Castle cheered along every inch of the way. The entire route had been covered in an array of flags, flowers, and garlands.

Reaching the Castle lawn, the King spent some minutes talking and shaking hands with a small assembly of old Crimean and Mutiny veterans.

A luncheon was then had at the castle.

Ticket for the 1904 Kilkenny Agricultural Show Grand Stand

Kilkenny Agricultural Show

At 4 o'clock, the King and Queen left with their hosts for the Kilkenny Agricultural Show held at St. James Park, just outside the city. On their way, they expressed much interest in the City Hall (Tholsel), described by a publication during the visit as a "partly corn market and partly wooden lighthouse".

They arrived at the show at 4:05, and the gates were opened to them at 4:13. At the Show, from a large grandstand (pictured top) they watched the cattle parade, saw some capital jumping, and inspected a display of local industries, notably carpet-making.

A ticket embroidered with gold-leaf permitted entry into the Show's grandstand and can be seen pictured alongside.

At 5:25 the Royal party left the show.

Credit: Frank Kavanagh

Castle Dinner

In the evening there was a large dinner party in the dining-room in one of the Castle's towers. The famous Ormonde gold plate was brought out. As Hereditary Chief Butlers of Ireland, the Heads of the Ormonde family held a wonderful collection, including many Coronation cups - the cup from which the Sovereign drinks at his Coronation banquet being the Chief Butler's perquisite.

Picture Gallery Reception

A reception followed, Lord and Lady Ormonde receiving their guests in the beautiful gallery, which contained one of the finest collections in Ireland - old masters, marble statuary, rare china and curios of varied description.

When all 500 guests had assembled, King, Queen, and Princess Victoria took their place on a platform at the end of the room, where many presentations were made to the Royal pair in quite an informal style.

Outside, Kilkenny was a blaze of illuminations as an epic fireworks display lit up the sky throughout the city.

Royal's Bedroom

The King and Queen's bedroom were situated in one of the Castle's round towers - which afforded a charming view of the river, town, and surrounding country.

The King's bedroom featured two-centuries-old wallpaper, while a quaint octagonal room was used as the King's smoking room. It was fitted with an ensuite bathroom which was one of the earliest in Ireland.

The Queen's boudoir was in pink and gold, and the old oak panelling of her bedroom was particularly fine, having been brought from the Ormonde's dismantled residence, Carrick Castle.

The Royals also had use of a drawing-room and library.

Day 2 - 01 May

Mass at St. Canice's Cathedral

In the morning, the Royals attended service at St. Canice's Cathedral, arriving at 11:30am. The King and Queen sat in state chairs between the lectern and pulpit, while the Princess joined the Marchioness of Ormonde in the front pew.

The Dean of Ossory read the lessons and the Bishop preached. 

Poor Weather Thwarts Motor Excursion

In the afternoon, a violent gale and wind completely prevented a long motor excursion in an open car to Woodstock, Inistioge; which had been planned for the Royal Visitors. There was great disappointment as their Majesties were expected to pay two calls, while the villages en route had decorated, one displaying the King's racing colours.

Day 3 - 02 May

Bade Farewell

In the morning, their Majesties and Princess Victoria left the Castle for the last time, heading back to Kilkenny Railway Station. They were bid adieu as they headed for Waterford, and thereafter, Lismore. As their train left, a local band played 'God Save Ireland' and 'Come Back to Erin'.

It would take over 110 years for another royal visit to Kilkenny when Prince Charles and Princess Camilla visited the city on the 11th of May 2017.


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