The London Borough of Greenwich will join an elite group of "Royal Boroughs" as part of HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it has been announced.
The Queen's gracious decision to bestow this rare honour on Greenwich was announced today by Lord Mandelson in the House of Lords. It will come into effect from 2012 - the year that marks Elizabeth II's 60th year as Queen.
At present, the only other Royal Boroughs are Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston, and Windsor and Maidenhead. Royal Borough status is awarded only to boroughs that have a long association with the monarchy.
Greenwich Council leader, Chris Roberts, was at the House of Lords today to hear the announcement and commented afterwards:
“The residents, businesses and the millions of visitors to Greenwich will share in our delight at this wonderful news. Greenwich has always taken tremendous pride in the borough’s long history of royal connections with Greenwich, Woolwich and Eltham dating back almost 600 years and which continue so strongly right up to the present day.
“I would like to thank everyone who has backed the borough to receive this honour over many years - especially our many partners in the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. In particular, I would like to personally thank Lord Sterling, Chairman of Trustees at the National Maritime Museum, who has been instrumental in promoting this honour for Greenwich and in ensuring the borough’s many treasures are promoted and recognised by all.”
Councillor Nigel Fletcher, Opposition Spokesman for Culture on Greenwich Council, responded to the news by saying:
“This is wonderful news, and a huge tribute to our great Borough and the importance of its heritage. As the birthplace of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and with so many other Royal links, it is truly appropriate that we should be given this honour by The Queen, who amongst her many titles is also Lady Greenwich.
“We have repeatedly campaigned for our heritage and Royal connections to be more properly celebrated by the Council, and I have often said that Royal Borough status would be fitting. I am delighted that it will now happen in 2012, when the eyes of the world will be on us for the Olympics.”
Greenwich and Woolwich MP, Nick Raynsford commented:
‘This is fantastic news for Greenwich and a well-merited recognition of the Borough’s substantial long-standing royal connections. King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I were both born in Greenwich which was home to the principal Royal palace of the time. The royal connection continued into the Stuart era when Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I, commissioned the Queen’s House, the first true Renaissance building in England, and King Charles II began the construction of what is now the old Royal Naval College, one of Britain’s finest Baroque masterpieces. The Queen’s House has since become part of the National Maritime Museum, which enjoys the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh along with the Cutty Sark.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II herself opened the new Planetarium and our present monarch has remained a regular visitor to the Borough. I am particularly delighted that Greenwich’s royal title will come into effect in 2012, which coincides with the world-focus on the Borough with its hosting of 2012 Olympic events including the equestrian events and modern pentathlon in Greenwich Park, basketball and gymnastics in the O2, and shooting and paralympic archery at the historic Royal Artillery Barracks’.
Lord Mandelson also announced today that there will be an extra public holiday in 2012 to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.