It’s about time Greenwich to be royal borough after 500-year wait

Arise, Greenwich: a view of the Queen’s House, now part of the National Maritime Museum, from the Royal Observatory.Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth was born at their palace there, Anne Boleyn danced in the grounds and Charles II built the Royal Observatory, now part of the National Maritime Museum.But it has taken more than 500 years for Greenwich’s connections with the monarchy to be officially recognised by being made a royal borough.The Queen is bestowing the honour as part of the celebrations to mark her Diamond Jubilee in the same year that Greenwich hosts several Olympic events.

From 1 January, 2012, Greenwich will join Kingston, Kensington and Chelsea and Windsor and Maidenhead as royal boroughs. Kingston was the last to receive the honour in 1927.The Queen’s decision follows behind-the-scenes negotiations between Greenwich and senior figures in government and at Buckingham Palace after the borough failed to win city status to mark the Millennium.Lord Sterling, chairman of trustees of Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum, was said to be “instrumental” in securing the Queen’s approval.Greenwich council leader Chris Roberts said he felt “elated, proud, honoured”, adding: “I couldn’t be happier. It’s just a great sense of civic pride for the borough. There is no doubt in the course of time it will potentially reflect on all those who live in the borough and those who visit it.”

Mr Roberts said the honour, which is regarded as “an exceptional mark of royal favour” but which does not result in additional money or powers, was likely to require all street signs in the borough to be replaced.He said: “People living in Greenwich will want it to say ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich’ on the street sign. The borough’s coat of arms may need to change and the mayor’s chain may need to be adjusted. We will be talking to people about that.”

The decision was announced yesterday by Lord Mandelson in the House of Lords. The Government said the Queen had made the decision “in recognition of the very close links between Greenwich and the monarchy as well as Greenwich’s global significance”. Greenwich’s international reputation results from it being home to the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time. Maritime Greenwich comprises Greenwich Park, the National Maritime Museum, Old Royal Naval College and town centre and was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997.

During the Olympics, Greenwich Park will host the equestrian events, while the O2 Arena will stage basketball, trampolining and gymnastics. The Royal Artillery in Woolwich will host shooting.The Queen was last in Greenwich in 2007 to visit the Royal Observatory, on the morning after the Cutty Sark fire. The Duke of Edinburgh, who is also Baron Greenwich, has been involved in the project to restore the ship.

Thanks to The Standard for the post:

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