With our colonial past, it’s no surprise many Singaporean roads are named after prominent British figures – including the royal family. We visit some of them and look into their royal connections
As much a pillar of British cultural identity as the Union Jack itself, the royal family has millions of adoring fans over the world. This spring, the Windsors were thrust into the spotlight once again, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot on May 19.
With that in mind, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to drive out and explore Singapore’s royal connections. Not only have there been numerous royal visits to our little island over the past century (Prince Harry himself was here last June), many places here were named after members of the royal family as well.
Of course, it’s only fitting that such a grand endeavour should be completed in something similarly regal, and the MINI Clubman fits the bill perfectly. Like the classic Mini Traveller which inspired it, the Clubman is MINI’s homage to the shooting brake – a faster, more luxurious and more stylish variation of a station wagon – which were often used by aristocrats to carry their guns and dogs to a hunt, and their game or trophies back from it.
The Royal: Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was another significant ruler of Great Britain; with 63 years on the throne, her reign was the longest of any British monarch until Elizabeth II surpassed that in 2015. She was short – only 1.52 metres – but her stature didn’t get in the way of her rule, which was during the height of the British Empire. Many other Victorias were named after her: the states of Victoria and Queensland in Australia, Victoria Falls (the largest waterfall in the world) in Zambia, and of course our very own Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall in Singapore, as well as Victoria School and Junior College.
The Connection: Empress Place
Many iconic buildings proudly proclaim to be situated “within Singapore’s Civic District”, but the true heart of the area is actually Empress Place, as it was where the offices of the colonial government were first located, from 1826 on. Today’s Victoria Theatre was known as Victoria Town Hall from 1862-1952, and also housed municipal offices initially.
The Royal: Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII)
Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan initially stirred controversy, due to her being 1) an American and 2) a divorcee; but 80 years ago a similar situation occurred, when Harry’s granduncle King Edward VIII proposed to divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.
Unlike Harry though, who has received the Queen’s blessings, Edward lived in a more traditional time and was forced to choose between his love or the crown.
Ultimately he chose love and abdicated, which is why at just 10 months, 11 days on the throne, King Edward VIII is the shortest-reigning British monarch. This thrust his younger brother, George into the spotlight, and he overcame his speech disability to enjoy a long reign as depicted in the movie The King’s Speech.
The Connection: Prince Edward Rd
Long before he became King, Edward made a tour of the Far East, visiting Singapore in 1922. It was for this occasion that Prince Edward Road was named after him.
Situated right at the Southeastern edge of the CBD, Prince Edward Rd is notable as the original location of Singapore Polytechnic, our country’s first-ever polytechnic when it opened in 1954.
The Royals: King George V and Mary of Teck
One of Queen Victoria’s grandsons, King George V reigned during the tragic period of World War I, with Mary of Teck as his spouse. Up to this point, the royal family’s house had been known as the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, due to their German ancestry, but anti-German sentiment forced him to change the family name to Windsor in 1917, which persists to this day.
The Connection: Duke’s/Duchess/King’s/Queen’s Rd
This little “royal estate” is located off Farrer and Bukit Timah roads, and was named in honour of both King George V and Mary of Teck, as well as the various Kings and Queens over Britain’s history. Several historical schools are located in this area, including St Margaret’s Secondary School, and Hwa Chong Institution.
The Royal: Princess Margaret
Photo: Princess Margaret https://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Princess_Margaret_1965b.jpg “Nijs, Jac. de / Anefo”
Licensed under Creative Commons
The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret courted controversy in the same way as her uncle Edward VIII, when she fell in love with Peter Townsend, royal equerry (aide) to her father, King George VI.
Being a divorcee and 16 years her senior, this romance was frowned upon and eventually broken off. Her eventual marriage to photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 was the first royal wedding ever aired on TV.
The Connection: Margaret Drive
Possibly one of the more iconic royal roads in Singapore, Margaret Drive cut through Duchess Estate, one of the neighbourhoods that made up Queenstown.
A thriving estate at its peak with a wet market, hawker centre, bowling and cinema, much of it has since been demolished to make way for more housing projects.
However, Queenstown Library and Polyclinic, the first public library and polyclinic in Singapore, still remain, and have been earmarked for conservation.
The Royal: Queen Elizabeth II
Photo: Queen Elizabeth 2 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Queen_Elizabeth_II_of_New_Zealand.jpg “Photograph taken by Julian Calder for Governor-General of New Zealand” Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0
Arguably the most famous royal in the world, Her Majesty the Queen is nothing if not illustrious. She’s currently the longest-reigning living monarch – celebrating her Sapphire Jubilee (70 years) last year – and at 91 years old, the longest-lived ever. She also requires no passport to travel, regularly drove herself around the royal estates, and served in World War II as a mechanic and driver in the army.
Over the years she’s visited Singapore thrice – in 1972, 1989 and 2006.
The Connection: Queensway (Queenstown)
Queensway is the main arterial road connecting Queenstown with other areas such as Bukit Timah and Bukit Merah.
As the name suggests, Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, was named as such to honour The Queen’s coronation in 1952.
While she never dropped by this area during her visits here, her grandson Prince William, together with the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton), did visit on her behalf in 2012, celebrating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.