diamond geezer

 Friday, February 03, 2012

It's an exciting morning to be a southeast Londoner. Yesterday Greenwich was just an ordinary London borough with housing officers, street sweepers and self-important councillors. But this morning it's awoken as the Royal Borough of Greenwich, complete with official charter from Her Majesty the Queen, in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee. How chuffed must the mayor be to have this honour bestowed during his period of office. How thrilled must councillors be to run a bigger name borough than measly Southwark, Lewisham, Croydon or Bexley nextdoor. And how proud must local residents be now that their very existence is suddenly more important through royal recognition? Yeah, that proud.

Changes are afoot locally in order to recognise Royal borough status. The borough has a new royal crest, complete with royal bits on the shield and everything. New street signs are being erected (they say "Royal Borough of Greenwich"). The council website (now royalgreenwich.gov.uk) is getting a makeover, complete with a section of crest as a background graphic. And this weekend Royal Greenwich residents can celebrate with fireworks, and historical re-enactments, and a big parade, and even a drop-in lantern-making workshop. Here's the celebratory timetable, by royal appointment.
Friday 3rd February (Woolwich): 4:30pm Festivities begin in General Gordon Square, 6:30pm Mayoral speech, followed by ten minutes of fireworks
Saturday 4th February (Eltham): 10am-2pm Historical activities and free entry at Eltham Palace, 5pm Festivities begin at the Tudor Barn, 6pm fireworks
Sunday 5th February (Greenwich): 10am-6pm Historical activities in and around the Old Royal Naval College, 5pm Grand Royal Greenwich Parade, 6pm fireworks
But Royal Greenwich boasts no current royal palaces. The area merits its royal borough status thanks solely to past glories, most especially during Tudor times. Henry VIII was born in Greenwich, and twice married here. His children Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I were all born at the palace, which is also where poor Edward died. Then there's the Royal Dockyard, and the Royal Naval College, and the Royal Observatory, not to mention the Royal Blackheath Golf Club. And if that's not enough, the Queen Mother visited in 1978 to open the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, as an increasingly tangential heritage page on the council's website proudly bears witness.

It's rare too, this royal moniker. Only two other London boroughs share the honour, a couple more in the Home Counties, and not terribly many more outside the capital. Here's the full list of British locations with nominated royal patronage.
Boroughs: Royal Borough of Greenwich (thanks to the Diamond Jubilee assignation), Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (because Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace), Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (because it was the coronation place of King Æthelstan in 925AD), Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (because of Windsor Castle)
Counties: Royal Berkshire (because of Windsor Castle)
Towns: Royal Town of Caernarfon (because of the castle), Royal Leamington Spa (because Queen Victoria visited the spa in 1838), Royal Tunbridge Wells (in recognition of the town's connections with the royal family since the Stuart dynasty), Royal Wootton Bassett (because some of the townspeople paid their respects to repatriated armed forces coffins for a few years)
Meanwhile it can't be long now until an official announcement is made of the name of Britain's newest city. This is another Diamond Jubilee-related honour, and the winner will be one of the urban districts on the following list:
Would-be Diamond Jubilee cities: Bolton, Bournemouth, Chelmsford, Colchester, Coleraine, Corby, Craigavon, Croydon, Doncaster, Dorchester, Dudley, Dumfries, Gateshead, Goole, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Perth, Reading, Southend, St Asaph, St Austell, Stockport, Tower Hamlets, Wrexham.
I think we can all agree it won't be Goole (the City of Goole, whatever were councillors thinking?). And it definitely won't be Tower Hamlets either, firstly because no committee would ever award the second Jubilee honour to anywhere adjacent to the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and secondly because the City of Tower Hamlets is an entirely ridiculous, almost megalomaniac, concept. The previous new city announcement, for the Golden Jubilee in 2002, was made in mid-March, so maybe we've a few weeks to wait yet. But the smart money is on Reading, currently 8/11 favourite following a recent spate of suspiciously big wagers, with Perth in second place at 5/1 and Medway at 8/1. And then, seriously, Tower Hamlets is the fourth favourite at 9/1?!? Surely Her Majesty has more wisdom, in her old age, than to bestow Jubilee honours on a second patch of inner city urban sprawl?

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