Damien’s Garden Party

Members attending 2015 Garden Party

The Queen’s Birthday Parade

The Chairman of the Kent Group, Bishop Damien Mead, attended the Colonels Review on Saturday 6th June 2015, where the salute was taken by HRH The Prince of Wales, accompanied by Group members Roy Hipkiss, Derek Swatton and Helen Scholfield .

Colonels Review 2015

Rochester Kent

There can be few towns in the kingdom which have had such strong royal associations as Rochester, and in a lively and interesting talk at the Guildhall Jeremy Clark, the museum’s education officer, told us about the most notable.

Rochester stands at the point where Watling Street, the Roman road running from the coast via Canterbury to London, crosses the River Medway. As such it was vital for anyone wanting to defend - or attack - England to hold it. In 885 King Alfred marched an army to Rochester to drive off the besieging Danes, and William II, better known to history as William Rufus, took the castle from his uncle Odo who had joined in a rebellion against him in 1088.

The wooden castle was replaced by an impressive stone structure which played an important role in the uprising against King John. Rebel knights occupied it and were besieged by John, whose army succeeded in breaching the outer wall and bringing down a substantial part of the keep. The knights held out until starvation forced their surrender, and the castle was eventually repaired by John’s son, King Henry III.

Queen Elizabeth I was famous for her ‘progresses’ around her realm, and Rochester received a visit from her, probably when she inspected nearby Upnor Castle, built as part of the defences against threats from Spain.

Uniquely, Rochester marks both the entrance and exit of two 17th century monarchs. King Charles II stayed there on his triumphal progress to London on his Restoration in 1660, staying in a house now called Restoration House. It is open to the public and the Kent Group visited it a few years ago. His brother, King James II, fled in the Glorious Revolution and spent his last night in England in Rochester, staying at a house in High Street now known as Abdication House and today home to a branch of Lloyd’s Bank. From there he boarded a boat on the Medway and sailed to exile in France.

Princess Victoria found herself marooned in Rochester in 1836 when a storm damaged the bridge and it was deemed unsafe for her to use it on her return to London from Ramsgate. She was less than pleased to have to spend the night at an inn, the Bull Hotel in High Street, which was renamed the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel in honour of the visit, even though it was unplanned. A magnificent coat of arms is still displayed over the entrance.

The Guildhall Museum has a fine collection of replica Crown Jewels, and our visit concluded with a close look at them.

From the Guildhall we walked the short distance to the Cathedral Refectory for a sumptuous Strawberry Tea of delicious sandwiches and cakes.

Chapel Royal

One of the advantages of belonging to the CMA is that membership provides opportunities which might not be available to the general public. This was certainly the case on our summer outing when David Baldwin, Sergeant of the Vestry and thus a member of Her Majesty’s Ecclesiastical Household, led us through the private courtyards and passage ways of St.James’s Palace to the Chapel Royal.

Although the Chapel Royal is used for public worship, most people will know it as the place where the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, lay in state prior to her funeral, or perhaps recognise it from paintings of Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert, and the wedding of the future King George V and Queen Mary. Most recently, of course, it was chosen for the christening of Prince George of Cambridge. Others will know of its reputation for music, and we saw the list of famous organists, among them Blow, Purcell, Handel, Byrd and Boyce.

What few will know, and which Mr.Baldwin explained to us, is how central the Chapels Royal and their clergy - Deans, Sub-Deans and Chaplains - have been to the life of the court, the government, and the nation. It played a vital role during the Reformation, the establishment of the Church of England, and the publication of the King James Bible, and in former times was indispensable in securing treaties between this country and its allies. Today they minister to The Queen and all the Royal Family, the Royal Household and, on occasions such as the Remembrance Day service in Whitehall, to the world at large.

To our consternation it was also involved in espionage, not just in the distant past when Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth the First’s spy-master, countered the threat from Spain, but also in modern times, when Anthony Blunt, as Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, occupied an office adjacent to the chapel and was later exposed as an agent passing secrets to Communist Russia.

Mr.Baldwin showed us some of the chapel’s treasures, such as the huge gold plate depicting the Last Supper commissioned by King Charles II, and the modern ‘verge’ or staff made to commemorate The Queen and Prince Philip’s Diamond Wedding.

Across Marlborough Road we visited The Queen’s Chapel, which stands next to Marlborough House, once home of Queen Victoria’s son the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII, and later Queen Mary. This was built as a Catholic chapel where King Charles the First’s French wife Henrietta Maria could attend Mass, and was later used by King Charles the Second’s queen, the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza. It remains available for Roman Catholic services if required.

It was in the Queen’s Chapel, which holds public services during the summer, that the coffins of Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lay in state.

David Baldwin’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Bible, the constitution, national and church history, and the architecture of the two chapels and the palace of which they are a part kept us spellbound, and wishing we could remember all we were told!

Lenham Diamond Jubilee Celebration Fete

Under the watchful eyes of Wendy Henderson and Shelia Boyd members set up a colourful display of flags and royal memorabilia at the stall we had at the fete. Lenham where we hold regular meetings is between Maidstone and Ashford on the A20, which is a central point for a membership widely scattered across the countyDuring the day this attracted many visitors, some of whom later joined our group. Everyone we spoke to was very supportive of the Monarchy, and the village of Lenham is to be congratulated on organising such a splendid celebration of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.

Don Foreman, Lynda Mills, Wendy Henderson

State Rooms, Coronation Exhibition and Gardens

On a beautiful late August day 26 members of the Kent Group visited the State Rooms, Coronation Exhibition and Gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Even if they have not been fortunate enough to visit the Palace themselves, the State Rooms are much photographed so most CMA members will be familiar with them and do not need a description of them here. However, even frequent visitors cannot fail to be impressed by their size and grandeur, appreciate the superb furnishings and magnificent antiques and works of art, and delight in knowing they are walking in the footsteps of The Queen and members of the Royal Family.

Use of an audio guide means that intrusive signage is kept to the minimum, and the many smart, courteous and helpful stewards are always ready to assist visitors and answer questions.

The Coronation Exhibition in the Ballroom was truly spectacular, and it was an amazing experience to stand within a few feet of the historic and splendid robes and dresses worn by The Queen, Queen Mother and other principal participants.

Thousands of visitors from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and all over the world pass through Buckingham Palace every summer, and must leave with a greater appreciation of the advantages monarchy confers on this country. The excellent shop has a wide range of goods on offer, some carrying the monarchist message ‘God Save The Queen’, but unfortunately there appeared to be no large pictures of The Queen on sale, so anyone wishing to buy such a picture to frame and hang in a school or other public building won’t find one at Buckingham Palace! Lunch was taken in the temporary café on the West Terrace.

At the time of our visit the enormous lawn was being restored after the Summer Garden Parties and Coronation Concert, which brought many thousands of visitors to The Queen’s official London home. The Gardens, however, were only just past their best, and our guide made sure we fully appreciated the herbaceous border, rose garden, specimen trees and features such as the Summer House and Waterloo Vase.

It was a day to remember, and a visit to Buckingham Palace is highly recommended. The ticket allows re-admission on another day, and I am sure some of the members will be going back.