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The Prince of Wales and his entourage on camels posing for camera in front of Pyramid of Cheops and Pyramid of Cephrenes, Giza, Cairo. The Prince is seated on the camel fifth from the left. The man in the white suit with a cigar, gazing up at the Prince,

Modes of travel and travelling accessories used by monarchs past and present

Overseas Excursions

Both diplomatic and military interests have prompted monarchs to undertake international travel. In 1520 Henry VIII sailed to Calais to meet with Francis I of France, a rendezvous which became known as the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold'. The meeting was designed to strengthen bonds of peace between the two countries, and together the kings took part in friendly tournaments and feasting during the event. Other monarchs have travelled overseas to form marriage alliances, including James I who sailed to Oslo to fetch his stranded bride, Anne of Denmark (1574–1619), in 1589.

King George V landing at Bologne in 1916 on a visit to the British Armies in France

King George V landing at Bologne in 1916 on a visit to the British Armies in France ©

International travel has also been prompted by military concerns abroad. Engagements in France formed a notable part of the reign of Charles II (1630–85), while William III (1650–1702) similarly campaigned in Ireland and France. The last British monarch to lead troops on the battlefield was George II (1683–1760), who fought at the Battle of Dettingen in Germany in 1743. During the First World War, King George V (1865–1936) made several visits to the trenches in northern France, here he collected war souvenirs, now in the Royal Collection.

In the twentieth century the British Empire, and subsequently the Commonwealth, played a key role in determining the overseas destinations of British monarchs. As Emperor of India, King George V visited Delhi in 1911, while his son, King George VI (1895–1952), made visits to the Commonwealth territories of Canada in 1939 and South Africa in 1947. Tours such as these were widely photographed, giving new, worldwide publicity to royal travel. Many images can be seen in the Royal Collection today, along with souvenir watercolours and official tour diaries.

As Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty The Queen has continued to play a leading international role. During her reign she has made more than 150 Commonwealth visits around the globe, making her the most travelled monarch in history.