Incorporated by Royal Charter
Patron: Her Majesty The Queen
This has been a year of enormous contrasts. Appalling and cowardly acts of terrorism countered with incredible acts of bravery and selflessness. Pre-election political posturing and post-election mayhem. Dark days of concern about our future role in Europe and the general unrest and uncertainty on the international stage, coupled with one of the best summers we have had for years. And the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, to add more grief to an already heavy burden. I think we were all appalled to see the apparent indifference of the authorities, perhaps partly engendered by shock and disbelief, but the selfless bravery of the emergency services, and of local people, on the night of the fire, and the outpouring of help and support from complete strangers was a true indication of how much love and generosity of spirit there is in so many people.
Among those who stepped forward to give support was Her Majesty the Queen, our Patron. It must have reminded some of us of the days of the Blitz, when her parents visited the East End to share in the suffering caused by Nazi bombing. She also was not afraid to go among her people and to reach out to them to show them that they were not alone.
But that sums her up. A lady of indomitable spirit who has seen so much and survived so much in the 65 years that she has been our Queen and Sovereign. 65 years is a big statement – some of us weren’t even born when she came to the throne – and yet she has given us, her subjects, a lifetime of service and has never put a foot wrong.
The Queen is part of the narrative of our country and of our own lives, and I think we all believe we know her quite well. We know how she looks, we know she has a wicked sense of humour and a very good taste in hats, and we know the statistics and the records she kicks into touch each year – now the world’s oldest reigning monarch, and the longest reigning British Monarch, to name but two of them. But, did you know that she is the first British Monarch to be formally training in how to change a spark plug? Or that she has a BAFTA for her patronage of the film industry? (Will any of us forget her iconic performance against James Bond at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics?)
Can we begin to imagine how she must have felt 65 years ago when she heard, whilst on holiday in Kenya, that her beloved father had died and she was Queen. She had only said goodbye to him on the tarmac at London airport the week before and had no idea that she wouldn’t see him on her return. But she rose to her duty then, as she has done very day since then, with an enormous amount of selfless grace.
At ninety one years of age she is still working as hard as ever, breaking every possible record ever held by a British Monarch. She works tirelessly for her people here and abroad, and has never put herself before her duty. She has seen her country recover from war, lose its Empire, modernise, diversity, change out of all recognition from the county that she became queen of all those years ago. And she is the calm centre of that storm of change.
St George’s Day: Our national day went, as usual, extremely well. I do think there is a swell of interest in and recognition of the day outside the work that we do as a Society, with more English flags flying and more discussion on television and the radio. We can do no more than keep up the good work, and I would like to thank everyone who put their all into to making it a very special day up and down the country and in our branches overseas.
I would personally very much like to thank Sheffield branch, who made me so welcome on the evening before St George’s Day. I know how busy they had been in the city centre that day, handing out red roses to residents as they went about their shopping, and to slip seamlessly from that to a very good and very entertaining dinner dance was, to say the least, impressive. My special thanks to Marie Minihan, President, for her hospitality and to Alan Smith, Hon. Sec. for his efficiency. And to Bryn and Jennifer for so kindly providing me with a warm, welcoming and very patient taxi service.
We have so much to be proud of, not the least that we are so fortunate to be a Royal Society and to have the Queen as our Patron. I cannot emphasise that enough, particularly to those branches who struggle to understand why they should pay their branch fees to the Society. You are branches of a Society that has Royal Patronage, which is an enormous privilege. If the Society folds it will only be because we can no longer afford to keep going, and the consequence of that will be that your branch will no longer exist either. If that doesn’t matter to you, then I suggest you examine your reasons for purporting to belong.
This probably sounds harsh, but there is no other way of putting the truth: the Society needs its branches to work with it in order not just to survive but to grow and to reach out to everyone who loves their country. We are not on two opposing sides, we are one and the same.
Enjoy your summer.
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