Sunday, October 16, 2011

Royal Wooton Bassett

In a moving ceremony this afternoon the small town of Wooton Bassett received the Letters patent to be able to prefix the town's name with "Royal". This was only the third occasion that this has happened and the first time for over 100 years.

The other two towns are Royal Tunbridge Wells and Royal Leamingston Spa which are both watering holes favored by previous monarchs. For Tunbridge Wells the prefix "Royal" dates to 1909, when King Edward VII granted the town its official "Royal" title to celebrate its popularity over the years amongst members of the royal family. It is a Spa town, incorporated as a municipal borough in 1888. In 1909 Edward VII allowed the prefix "Royal" in recognition of the town's connections with the royal family since the Stuart dynasty. The Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells was abolished in April 1974, and charter trustees were briefly appointed to preserve the mayoralty of the town. The trustees, who were themselves abolished in December 1974, obtained letters patent reauthorising the prefix "Royal" to the name of the town

Leamington was granted a "Royal" prefix in 1838 by Queen Victoria, who visited the town as a Princess in 1830 and as Queen in 1858. There are other Royal counties and boroughs recognized because there are Royal palaces in them. The following places have been explicitly granted or confirmed the use of the title "royal" by royal charter, letters patent or similar instrument issued by the monarch. Berkshire, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston on Thames, Windsor. Since 1926 the entitlement to the title "royal borough" has been strictly enforced. Devizes in Wiltshire, which had previously used the title without sanction was forced to end the practice.

The title "regis" (of the king) has also been granted to one town - Bognor. Tourism gradually took off in Bognor during the 19th century, with the area being chosen as an ideal location for King George V to convalesce during 1929, the King and Queen actually staying at Craigwell House in Aldwick. As a result, the King was asked to bestow the suffix "Regis" ("of the King") on "Bognor". The petition was presented to Lord Stamfordham, the King's Private Secretary, who in turn delivered it to the King. King George supposedly replied, "Oh, bugger Bognor." Lord Stamfordham then went back to the petitioners and told them, "the King has been graciously pleased to grant your request. There are 13 other Regis-es in the UK, but it generally signifies nothing more than that the Crown originally owned the manor. Among them are Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire, Salcombe Regis in Devon, Bere Regis and Lyme Regis in Dorset, Milton Regis in Kent, Beeston Regis in Norfolk, Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire, Brompton Regis in Somerset, Newton Regis in Warwickshire and Rowley Regis in the West Midlands.

The prefix King---- signifies something similar and there are more of these: Kingham, Kingsclere, King's Heath, Kingskerswell, Kings Langley, King's Lynn, King's Norton, King's Sutton, Kings Tamerton, Kingstanding, Kingsteignton, Kingston by Ferring, Kingston upon Hull, Kingston upon Thames, Kingswinford Winterborne, Kingston, Kingsbridge, Kingsbury Episcopi, Kingsdon, Kingston Seymour, Kingston St Mary, Kingstone, Kingweston, Kingswood, Queen Adelaide, Cambridgeshire, Queen Camel, Queen Charlton, Queen's Park, Princes Risborough, and Princetown.

Royal Wooton Bassett is different. It is the closest town to the RAF base at Lyneham. In 2005 a Hercules aircraft from Lyneham was lost in Iraq with all its crew. As they were repatriated people from the town spontaneously lined the streets to honor the servicemen as their hearses drove through the town. After 2007 servicemen killed in Afghanistan were routinely repatriated through Lyneham and again the town stood in silence as the funeral corteges drove through. Eventually several thousand people lined the streets, distributing flowers on the funeral vehicles. This was a spontaneous gesture of respect and honor for our servicemen. They performed this ceremony for 365 soldiers, marines, sailors and airman. It is for this act of honor that they have been honored. In future repatriation flights will be through a different RAF base at Brize Norton.

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