When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex take their seats at the London Palladium to enjoy the annual Royal Variety Show next week, they will be continuing a tradition that dates back more than a century. For former actress Meghan, there will be a few familiar acts, including the West End cast of hit musical Hamilton; the Duchess has seen the phenomenal hit three times on stage.
Other acts on the night, which will be hosted by comic Greg Davies, include Andrea Bocelli and his son Mateo, Take That, Clean Bandit and George Ezra. Britain's Got Talent winner Lost Voice Guy, real name Lee Ridley, will also appear as part of his prize for winning the contest. Watched by 152 million people globally each year, it's the longest running and most successful entertainment show in the world. Ever since King George V and Queen Mary, Harry's great-great grandparents, attended the first ever 'Royal Command Performance' in 1912, the glittering event has brought together some of the world's biggest stars.
Kate attended with Prince William last year, when she was pregnant with Prince Louis
The roll-call of legendary artists who have appeared in 90 shows over 105 years includes Hollywood legends Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Junior and Bob Hope, acting greats Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Marlene Dietrich and Dame Julie Andrews, who aged just 13, led the cast in singing God Save the King at the 1948 performance. Sir Edward Elgar conducted the orchestra in 1919, while operatic greats Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo have sung and ballet idols Anna Pavlova and Rudolf Nureyev have graced the stage. Showstopping female vocalists have included the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Lady Gaga, Adele, Cher, Dame Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Lopez.
The Queen pictured with Judy Garland in 1957
Michael Jackson, Sir Elton John, Kanye West, Lionel Richie, Sir Tom Jones and Sir Rod Stewart have all taken part, while boy bands have included One Direction, Take That, The Jackson Five and of course the biggest one of all, The Beatles. In 1963, as they prepared to play Twist and Shout to an audience which included the Queen Mother, John Lennon famously quipped: "For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands… and the rest of you, if you just rattle your jewellery."
Comic turns have been provided by acts ranging from Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise and Tommy Cooper to Harry Hill, Michael McIntyre and Peter Kay. And the entire English football team took to the stage after winning the World Cup in 1966.
Prince Harry and Jack Whitehall banter at Royal Variety Show:
More than 152 million people worldwide now watch the Royal Variety Show on television. The very first show in 1912 at London's Palace Theatre was put on in aid of the Variety Artistes' Benevolent Fund to raise funds for Brinsworth House, a home for elderly entertainers in Twickenham, south west London. In 1921, King George V became Patron of the Fund, which is now known as the Royal Variety Charity, and decreed that a senior member of the royal family would attend the show every year to support the cause. Five years later the annual show was broadcast on BBC radio for the first time because demand for tickets was so great. It was televised for the first time in 1960.
The Queen Mother meets the Beatles in 1963
Patronage of the charity was inherited by King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and later by the current Queen, who first attended as Princess Elizabeth in 1947 at the age of 21. Her Majesty last attended in 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the Royal Variety Performance and since then the show has been attended by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who made his debut as guest of honour in 2015. Since 2007, the winner of the Britain's Got Talent competition has appeared in the show and a proportion of the money raised through phone votes is donated to the Royal Variety Charity.
Prince Harry, pictured with Jack Whitehall, made his debut in 2015
The Charity supports those who have worked professionally in the entertainment industry and are in need of help – old or young, whether they've worked on stage or in the wings, in front of a camera or behind it. It offers a nationwide grant to assist people in their own homes and Brinsworth House remains a key focus of its work. The charity's Honorary Life President Laurie Mansfield describes the thoughtfully designed 36-bed facility as "the beating heart of the Royal Variety Charity" and it's not hard to see why. The corridors and bar of the home are decorated to resemble a theatre and residents enjoy weekly performances from visiting artists. Along with musicians and actors from the West End, top acts including the late Sir Bruce Forsyth have appeared on the small stage there to provide entertainment.
Among the famous names cared for at the home are the late Dame Thora Hird, Sir Norman Wisdom and actor Leslie Grantham, who passed away in June. But the majority of residents are the unsung heroes of showbusiness, rather than top performers. Actor Robert Powell, an executive committee member for the charity, told HELLO!: "Contrary to popular belief most entertainers do not become rich entertaining and many find that towards the end of their careers or when illness prevents them from working they struggle to take care of themselves.
A senior royal family member always attends the show each year
"The Royal Variety Charity serves a truly wonderful purpose, both by making individual grants and by providing extraordinary care at Brinsworth House." Allo Allo star Vicki Michelle, who is also on the committee, said: "The work it does to support those less fortunate in our industry, either through illness or financial hardship is invaluable. The show must go on, it's easy to forget amongst the glamour and glitz the problems that are being faced behind the scenes. Brinsworth House plays such a vital role in the charity's support, providing a happy home environment, expert medical care and above all, peace of mind to those who have dedicated their lives to bringing joy to others."
Giles Cooper, Chairman of the Royal Variety Charity and executive producer of the Royal Variety Show, told HELLO!: "It's a little-known fact that thousands of people who work in the entertainment industry face desperate problems each day. Only the top four per cent earn above the average UK wage and the vast majority live from job to job, often spending long periods out of work and with little ability to plan for their futures or provide themselves with any security should they fall ill or have an accident. It's so ironic that many entertainers and those working behind the scenes in the business spend much of their lives raising funds for other people's charities, but giving little thought to their own future, security or situation."
Kate meets Simon Cowell and Harry Styles at the show
He said of the Duke and Duchess's night out to see the show: "Prince Harry attended his first Royal Variety Show in 2015 and this year the charity is thrilled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex will be accompanying The Duke to this year's performance, particularly as the residents and staff of Brinsworth House, the main beneficiary of the show, held their own Royal Wedding celebration on 19th May."
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