Visit of the King of Afghanistan, 22 March 1928

In late 1927, King Amānullāh and Queen Surayya of Afghanistan commenced a tour of Europe, arriving in Britain on 13 March 1928 and leaving for Poland just over three weeks later. On 22 March, the King made a visit to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, where he was met by the Astronomer Royal, Frank Dyson. A large retinue of press photographers, together with a film crew, were present to record the occasion. King Amānullāh reigned for just ten years, from 1919 until his abdication in 1929. He lived the rest of his life as an exile in Europe, dying in Switzerland in 1960.

In this view, the King, who is at the centre of the group, is observing a projected image of the Sun. The Astronomer Royal is on the right of the group, and although largely hidden from view, can be identified by his white hair. The man in the light coat with his hands behind his back and his back to the camera is Harold Newton, who joined the Observatory in 1910 and was in charge of the photoheliographs

The Royal party on the roof of the South Building. The Astronomer Royal (now wearing a top hat) is in the centre of the group. The King is to his right and carrying a camera. The aerial for receiving time signals from Paris was suspended from the flagpole on the Octagon Room roof (see left hand photo) to the flagpole that is behind him


An unfinished film, Visit of the King of Afghanistan to England is preserved in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. It consists of 7 reels in total, all now on video. The King’s visit to the Royal Observatory is on video 4. This video starts with the Royal Party travelling by boat downstream to Greenwich. Observatory footage starts at 3 min 5 sec. The King and the Astronomer Royal, Frank Dyson, are seen entering the 28-inch telescope dome and examining the telescope. They are then shown examining the telescopes in the Thompson Dome in the South Building. The footage ends with the royal party on the South Building roof. Click here to view this video.