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The Duchess of Rothesay becomes Chancellor of Aberdeen University

10th June 2013

The Duchess of Rothesay becomes Chancellor of Aberdeen University

The Duchess of Rothesay becomes Chancellor of Aberdeen University

The Duchess of Cornwall has made history by being installed as the first female Chancellor of Aberdeen University.

Her Royal Highness, known as The Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, was honoured by the university as she formally took up the position. She is also the first member of the Royal Family to hold the post, which dates back to 1860. An installation ceremony took place at the university's Elphinstone Hall today.

The Duchess was greeted by glorious sunshine and nursery children waving the Union flag as she arrived at the university's College Bounds.

Wearing a navy blue dress and pearls, she joined a procession of university dignitaries, including Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeen Alison Skene and University Principal and Vice-Chancellor professor Sir Ian Diamond. Led by a piper, the procession wound through the grounds of King's College to the hall where an audience of university alumni, staff and students gathered.

The Duchess, who follows two prime ministers into the historic chancellorship, was first awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

An installation speech was made by Colin Duncan, convener of the business committee of the university's General Council. Addressing The Duchess, he said: "We know of your great interest in the life of the university already from the many visits you have undertaken here, and the time you have spent with our staff and students.

"We know also of your many links to the north-east of Scotland that this university is proud to serve and of your great love for the landscapes that border the River Dee which joins the sea in this city. "Today with your installation as chancellor, those links are further cemented and we wish that you will derive great joy and fulfilment from the role for a great many years to come."

The Duchess made a declaration of fealty to the university in Latin and was robed before presiding over the rest of the ceremony.

Her Royal Highness said she was "touched" and "honoured" by the appointment, and joked about being made Chancellor of one of the great universities having left school at the age of 16.

She paid tribute to the "outstanding" service of her predecessor Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, who stepped down at the end of December having served as chancellor since 1997.

She revealed her husband The Prince of Wales had "patiently coached" her in the recital of Latin required for the role.

The Duchess also spoke of her connection to the local area. "My father's family, the Shands, hail from north-east Scotland, from Banff in fact," she said. "So this city is central to my Scottish heritage and has taken on an even greater importance now, because whenever I come to Scotland which, I'm happy to say, is frequently, it is in Aberdeen that my visit always begins. It is what I like to call my home port."

She praised the university's standing as a world class institution and hailed the new £60 million library, of which The Prince of Wales, known as The Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, was campaign Patron.

"I hope very much to be able to encourage work done by the university to reduce illiteracy, an unimaginable handicap to those of us who take our ability to read and write for granted," she said.

She added: "I have talked of the university's great past and I hope that, together, we may be part of what will be its equally great future."

The Duchess of Rothesay after being made Chancellor is applauded by Principle Ian Diamond (left) and Secretary Steve Cannon (right) during the ceremony at Aberdeen University.

The Duchess of Rothesay after being made Chancellor is applauded by Principle Ian Diamond (left) and Secretary Steve Cannon (right) during the ceremony at Aberdeen University.

During the ceremony, the university's King's College chapel choir performed Blessing, a piece specially written for the occasion by composer Paul Mealor, who also wrote Ubi Caritas for the Royal wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

In her first duty as chancellor, The Duchess presented six honorary degrees to representatives of the arts, law, medicine and sport.

Those honoured included Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, Scottish Paralympic gold medalist Neil Fachie and Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood. Honorary degrees were also bestowed upon former provost of Eton College Sir Eric Anderson; nutrition expert Professor William James and a retired physician and university lecturer Dr Audrey Dawson.

After the ceremony Her Royal Highness attended a reception in a marquee in the university's grounds where she met staff, students and honorary graduates. Fachie, the first Scot on the Paralympic team to win gold at London 2012 and a former graduate of the university, said he was overwhelmed by the honour.

"It's the university where I studied in the city I grew up in so to be honoured here is very special.

"It's very nerve-wracking, it's more stressful than doing any race as it's something you're not used to, but it's something I'll never forget."

He said he had shared his nerves with The Duchess after the ceremony. "She asked what was next for me and asked me if I was nervous, because she was," he said.Mr Mulholland, also a graduate of the university, said it was a thrill and an honour to receive his degree from The Duchess.

He said: "She spoke very well. It is obvious that she is very pleased to be appointed as Chancellor. I am sure it will be very good for the university."

The Duchess, who is the university's 11th Chancellor, was elected by the university's graduate body, the General Council, in February.

The life-long role comprises ceremonial duties including awarding degrees to graduates at the end of each year.

A speech by The Duchess of Rothesay upon Her Royal Highness's installation as Chancellor of Aberdeen University

Published on 10th June 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the University and fellow honorary graduates, I need hardly say how touched I am that the University of Aberdeen should have considered doing me this very great honour.

However, I am not absolutely sure the graduate body was fully aware that by electing me it was making history - in a modest sort of way, of course - because I have a feeling that I may be the first, and probably the only, person to become Chancellor of one of the great Universities in the world who managed to leave school at the age of 16. So, when I say this is a very great honour, I mean it!

I must confess that there were some profoundly intimidating aspects to the appointment. Most daunting of all was to know that I would be succeeding Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, not only an outstanding public servant and scholar but also, since 1997, a great ambassador for the University. And so I can only say that I will do all I can to live up to the very high standards of excellence and service he has set.

It was also rather alarming to learn, for example, that the role of the Chancellor of the University was defined in the second of the two foundation charters as being to defend the privileges and immunities of the University so that 'raven wolves do not invade the College and its flock'. I ought to tell you at once that I am not absolutely certain how I will best defend you from raven wolves, but perhaps Lord Wilson may be able to give me some suitable contra-lupine advice!

There was also the somewhat disturbing discovery that from time to time I ...

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