The start of August 1914 was a time of great emotion in London. As we saw in the first post on this blog, there were a number of crowds in Westminster in the days before the war and on August 4th.
This photo, published in the Daily Mirror on 6 August 1914, shows the crowd outside Buckingham Palace late on the evening on the 4th – just after war had been declared:
The photo shows the scene after war had been declared and the King and Queen (George V and Mary) had come out onto the balcony, joined by their son the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), who had recently become an officer in the Grendadier Guards. They seem to be on the right-hand balcony (looking from the Victoria memorial) rather than the larger middle balcony used by George VI on VE Day and by the current Queen on big state occasions since then.
Two things to note about this photo. The first is that there really were huge crowds in Westminster late at night on 4 August 1914 to great the declaration of war. The second is (as noted in the earlier post about Trafalgar Square) the social make-up of the crowd: it is mainly a young middle/upper class crowd, as shown by the number of straw boaters being waved around. Hats were a handy way to identify men’s social class in 1914.
The war was greeted with cheers by some, but more by young well-off men than by those whose jobs might be affected by the disruption of war or for whom providing for the family (as the bread-winner or the person shopping and cooking) would become much harder as prices rose in response to the war. It is unlikely that any Londoners really envisaged the kind of war that was beginning that night 99 years ago, but a great many greeted it with fear. Worried individuals and families do not make for exciting newspaper images and copy, though, so we are left with images of jubilant crowds.