As we continue to spotlight various Patronages that members of The Royal Family currently hold, today’s piece will focus on Her Majesty The Queen’s role as Patron of the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund (EABF).
The origins of the EABF began way back on December 4th 1907 when The Music Hall Artistes’ Railway Association proposed at its General Meeting that a levy of one shilling be introduced with its annual subscription to be used as a benevolent fund for the benefit of its members and artistes.
In 1912, His Majesty King George V and Queen Mary attended the first Royal Command Performance at London’s Palace Theatre. What we know today as the Royal Variety Performance was first held in July 1912 and for this inaugural performance, the theatre was decorated with over 3 million roses draped around the auditorium and over the boxes. Its fair to say the first Royal Command Performance was a lavish one.
Because of the horrors of The Great War, it would be another seven years before King George V and Queen Mary attended another Command Performance. The performance in 1919 was to thank the variety profession for their efforts throughout the First World War. In 1921, Secretary of the VABF Harold Bishop organised the first in a long line of Royal Variety Performances and King George V agreed to become Patron of the Fund in the same year.
King George V decreed that the Monarch or any senior member of The Royal Family should attend the performance annually. The Monarch or said member of the family would attend in support of the Benevolent Fund and Brinsworth House, the house where former artistes are in residence.
In the present day, The Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund cares for thousands of entertainers throughout the UK who are in need of help and assistance because of old age, ill health or hard times. Brinsworth House is the Fund’s dedicated nursing home, caring for elderly members of the entertainment industry.
The Royal Patronage of King George V and Queen Mary was secured by Harry Marlow, secretary of the fund for 37 years, in 1921 and the Royal association has continued ever since. When King George VI became King, he and Queen Elizabeth took over the Patronage, a role which The Queen Mother held until her death in 2002. Her Majesty The Queen has been Patron since her accession in 1952.
Queen Elizabeth II has attended 37 Royal Variety Performances, the first being in 1949 before she became Queen. This performance was held at the London Coliseum and was hosted by Alec Shanks and featured acts such as Peggy Ryan, Reginald Dixon and Johnny Lockwood. The Queen’s most recent appearance at the Royal Variety Performance came at the 100th anniversary of the performance in 2012 and the first time ever it was held at the Royal Albert Hall. Acts at this performance included Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Katherine Jenkins.
The Royal Variety Performance is often considered a Christmas tradition in the UK, owing to the fact it is broadcast around the Christmas holidays. The 2014 Royal Variety was held in the presence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is unconfirmed at the moment which Royal will be in attendance at the 2015 Performance though one is hopeful that it will be Her Majesty, it is a landmark year for her after all!