Ladies and Gentlemen,
I rather suspected that the Lord Lieutenant wouldn’t be able to resist the opportunity to draw his sword for yet another cake. I am enormously grateful to him for his very kind words and above all I sympathise with you all having to put up with this inordinate heat which is really rather typically British, rather a mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun moment. But you are all very resilient and courageous.
I cannot tell you what a delight it is to be here today, and how deeply touched I am by the kindness that you have shown, and I apologise that we haven’t managed to get round all of you.
I am told that since I have been Duke of Cornwall I have attended events in Cornwall on over 300 occasions – and of course I have come here frequently for less official visits. There have been so many memorable visits over all these years – especially to The Royal Cornwall Show – where, years ago, and in the days of the then Chairman, Sir John Molesworth-St. Aubyn, who was a wonderful character and extremely deaf, I remember asking him “if I could visit the ‘Bee Tent.’” After walking half the way round the showground, following him, he brought me to the lavatory tent – the “Pee Tent”! I have also paid innumerable visits to Duchy farms which I have seen evolve over the generations. Having started with the grandfathers fifty-three years ago, I am now coming towards the end of my time with the grandsons and granddaughters.
Of course, Cornwall has more than its share of characters and innovators, which makes life so much more interesting. Only in Cornwall for instance could we have one farm tenant still contentedly tending his stock on horseback and another who, when fed up with milking cows, started producing cider – now I’m going to say a household name and stocked by pubs and supermarkets across the U.K.!
My visits have taken me across the whole Cornish landscape from farms to forests to gardens, foreshores, quays, rivers, mines, churches, Truro Cathedral, castles, museums, G.P. surgeries, town halls – the list seems to be endless! The one common factor across all of this has been the remarkable people. The great thing, of course, is that while serving in the Royal Navy, and ultimately commanding my own small ship, I managed to avoid running into Cornwall! Talking of which, I remember my late father telling me years ago that not long after I was born and became Duke of Cornwall at the age of three and a bit, he found himself in Cornwall, launching a new lifeboat called, inevitably, the Duke of Cornwall. In his speech, he said to a somewhat bemused crowd of onlookers that this was the second time he “had had a hand in launching a Duke of Cornwall!”
Of course, to live in Cornwall, and certainly The Isles of Scilly, you all have to possess a certain fortitude as you do sometimes have to cope with significant adversity. My darling wife and I remember well one or two challenging helicopter crossings to The Isles of Scilly. And I am told of a similarly challenging trip to the archipelago by my staff and a large police entourage when they sailed in the Scillonian in heavy seas – a suitably traumatic experience for those landlubbers from the mainland. On landing at St. Mary’s they were in all sorts of trouble and when told that the Duchy had arranged a further boat over to Bryher, the police refused to go and, furthermore, said they would only return to the mainland if they could fly… and from then on they were thereafter christened “The Flying Squad”!
In my time with the Duchy of Cornwall over the last half century, I have always tried to ensure that the Duchy has firmly supported the local communities who live and work here, as well as stewarding the land itself. In this regard, I have been resolved to maintain the integrity of the core estate which formed the basis of the Duchy in 1337. One of the wonderful things about the Duchy is that we have one particular farm tenant – in Somerset, as it happens – whose family has been with the Duchy for twenty-two generations – back to the days of King Henry VIII. I fervently believe that we should reconfirm the connections between people and place, through encouraging craftsmanship and respecting the natural environment, local materials, traditions and Cornish culture, so that we can anticipate the needs of generations to come.
In the development of Nansledan, as well as in the Duchy’s new, regenerative agricultural practices that will help us to meet, we hope, our Net Zero Carbon commitments, we have only been able to make what progress we have by working in partnership with our tenants, our suppliers and the people of Cornwall.
If I may so say, those commitments around net zero have never been more vitally important as we all swelter under today’s alarming, record temperatures across Britain and Europe. As I have tried to indicate for quite some time, the climate crisis really is a genuine emergency and tackling it is utterly essential – for Cornwall, the country and the rest of the world.
Now, while the Duchy’s holdings, as you know, extend beyond Cornwall itself, I cannot help but feel you have the best parts and certainly Cornwall is the Duchy’s spiritual home! I am delighted that our administrative base is now adjacent to Restormel Castle and that we are able to stay each year in Restormel Manor nearby. And, by the way, if you haven’t yet paid a visit to the Duchy Nursery at Lostwithiel, I do believe it’s open tomorrow!
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we share this occasion today, united in our love for this very special part of the world, I cannot help but feel the most overwhelming gratitude for all those who have gone before us and whose careful and devoted stewardship has bequeathed to us the Duchy which it has been my privilege to serve for these seventy years.
Now, as I find myself in the somewhat unnerving position of being the longest serving Duke since 1337, I can only hope that the changes I have made mean it will be in even better shape for those who come after me...
Kernow Bys Vyken!
(Cornwall for ever!)