Greenwich celebrates royal borough honour

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Greenwich celebrates royal borough honour” was written by Maev Kennedy, for The Guardian on Friday 3rd February 2012 00.05 UTC

A weekend of fireworks and celebrations begins on Friday as Greenwich becomes a royal borough.

The rare honour is being bestowed by the Queen to mark her diamond jubilee. The town, already a Unesco World Heritage Site and famous as the home of Greenwich Mean Time, is expecting a business bonanza this summer when it hosts the London 2012 Olympics equestrian events.

One of its tourist attractions, the tea-clipper Cutty Sark – of which the Duke of Edinburgh is a patron – is due to reopen after years of restoration work delayed by a fire.

The great palace at Greenwich, now a few bits of broken stone in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, was a favourite of the monarchy from the 15th century onwards, its extensive hunting park and handsome buildings easily accessible by water and a refuge from the stink, noise and disease of London.

The palace was named Placentia, the pleasing place. Henry VIII was born there in 1491 and brought up mainly at nearby Eltham palace, which will open to the public for free on Saturday as part of the celebrations.

Henry married Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves at Greenwich and his daughters, the future monarchs Mary and Elizabeth, were born there. Many royal visitors came through Greenwich at some point, and Peter the Great, on a ship-building tour, wrecked the diarist John Evelyn’s prized garden in neighbouring Deptford by organising wheelbarrow races through his holly hedge.

Greenwich’s latest honour became official when the royal charter signed by the Queen was collected from the office of the lord chancellor and delivered to the town hall in Woolwich by the mayor of Greenwich, Jim Gillman, and the leader of the council, Chris Roberts.

There will be myriad fireworks and free public entertainment over the weekend in Woolwich, Eltham and Greenwich itself, where the charter will be on display at the Old Royal Naval College.

Signs boasting of the royal title are likely to spring up all over Greenwich this year, although the council says most official street signs will be replaced only on an “as and when” basis.

However, the maritime museum got in early and changed its name to the Royal Museums Greenwich last year. Its royal credentials are unimpeachable, and it even has a royal dogs connection. The main museum was officially opened by George VI in 1937, with the 11-year-old Elizabeth at his side, and the complex includes not only the observatory on top of the hill, which was the former home and workplace of the astronomers royal, but also the Queen’s House, an elegant Palladian mansion built by Inigo Jones for Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. According to legend, James gave Anne the manor to make up for swearing at her in public after she accidentally shot one of his favourite dogs while they were out hunting.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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