It’s official – from 3 January the London Borough of Greenwich will become the Royal Borough of Greenwich after a motion backing the change was passed at last night’s council meeting.
Leader Chris Roberts proposed the change, outlining the borough’s connections with royalty through the royal residences at Greenwich and Eltham, and dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford.
Additionally, to mark the change, the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House and Royal Observatory will be collectively known as the Royal Museums Greenwich from the new year.
“I’ve no doubt there will be those who will bleat on about cost and relevance, but this is our history,” he told councillors.
“It is what has made our borough, and we should be justly proud of the designation being conferred on us.
“It’s very difficult to talk about the history of the borough, because you could be here all night, and still miss a lot.”
Cllr Roberts referred to Henry V returning to Eltham Palace with French prisoners from Agincourt, Charlton House being originally built as a school for James I’s son, and how Duke Humphrey “took on the NOGOE of the 15th century” to enclose Greenwich Park.
“Henry VIII and the Tudors based themselves at Greenwich, and what may be called the greatest soap opera of English history took place in our borough.”
He said the Queen’s first public appearance was in Greenwich, at her father’s side at the 1937 opening of the National Maritime Museum – and spoke of how the Duke of Edinburgh, declared Baron Greenwich in 1948, had stayed in “constant touch” with the borough.
She will return to the borough in April 2012 to reopen the Cutty Sark, while the National Maritime Museum will host an exhibition about the “royal river”.
“We remain heirs to what is a great royal heritage, which has spawned science, industry and culture. It is a rich royal legacy.”
Conservative deputy leader Nigel Fletcher said Greenwich would be the only London borough to be given royal status in its entirety, since others had inherited their titles from predecessors.
“When I mentioned the soon-to-be Royal Borough of Greenwich, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea muttered darkly, ‘there’s only proper one royal borough’.
“Yes, I told him. And it’s going to be us.
“Whether you are a monarchist or a republican, this is the head of state recognising something that we all in this chamber have always known – that in this corner of south-east London, we have something very special indeed.”
The change is being made to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and will involve a new coat of arms and signs around the borough.
You can hear the full discussion below. Chris Roberts speaks first, and after a word from mayor Jim Gillman, Nigel Fletcher speaks before the motion is voted on.
Neither of the borough’s local newspapers, the Mercury and the News Shopper, were represented in the council chamber to see the name change decided. greenwich.co.uk was there, mind, and transcribed Chris Roberts’ speech, the brave man…