To whom it may concern
The City of Gloucester has good grounds for consideration of entitlement as a ‘royal’ town. Initiated by Alfred the Great and by Ethelred and Aethelflaed whose palace was at Gloucester. From earliest times it has been a place of noble patronage. Bede spoke of it as ‘one of the noblest cities in the Kingdom’. Alfred’s grandson Athelstan, first king over all of England was raised and died in Gloucester (buried in Malmesbury Abbey). Gloucester was referred to as his Royal borough by King Edgar, the unifier of England in 972. This was when six kings made submissions and he held regular councils and synods and it became a centre of royal government. Edward the Confessor in 1051, summoned his magnates to his ‘palace at Gloucester’, where he often resided.
The king’s palace designated ‘Kingsholm’ was later accompanied by royal apartments within a magnificent fortified ‘King’s Castle’ built in the style of the Tower of London. The castle that also housed the county sheriff, had three chapels, two drawbridges and comfortable chambers for both the king and the queen was a desirable royal residence. The old royal palace became less attractive than the security and comforts within the castle and its pleasant grounds.
Gloucester City was early governed by a ‘royal reeve’ (preceding the Norman Sheriff). Rights to farm the city by the burgesses were granted directly from the crown and customs were paid in the king’s hall (aula et camera Regis). Clearly this city had a warm appeal to visiting monarchs.
It is symbolic that from the start of the Norman reign, William the Conqueror would wear his crown at least once a year at Gloucester as he did at Westminster. He clearly regarded the City as ‘Royal’. His eldest son Robert, Duke of Normandy is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. Henry I in 1155 granted the citizens with similar liberties as those at London and Winchester.
It was also at the Cathedral in Gloucester that Henry III was crowned, the only English monarch to ever receive their coronation outside of Westminster Abbey. Henry, throughout his long reign favoured and often resided at Gloucester. Richard II from 1378 convened Parliament in the city and this practise continued regularly up until 1406, under Henry IV.
Royals buried in Gloucester include, King Osric who founded the monastic Cathedral in 680. The Mercian royals Ethelred and Aethelflaed at St Oswald’s Priory and King Edward II who is buried in the Cathedral. Gloucester was popular with King Henry VIII who is said to have enjoyed a close friendship with the Abbot of St. Peters and visited often. The city received further encouragement from Queen Elizabeth in 1561 by her ruling charter giving superior empowerment to its people that remained in force up until 1832.
In the 18th century, the Duke of Norfolk resided in a Palladian residence, ‘Spa House’ built in Westgate Street. Undoubtedly the gentry tended to shun the City after the Civil War for political reasons and consequently favoured Regency Cheltenham. However, the ancient city of Gloucester is the primary administrative centre of Gloucestershire and has retained many of its ancient liberties that existed prior to the civil wars.
The case for royal patronage must surely include the county. Gloucestershire can be recognised today as a Royal County having Prince Charles, the king in waiting, residing at ‘Highgrove House’ and Princess Anne, Prince Michael and Zara Phillips all making it their home. Historically, King George III made his home at nearby Cheltenham. Royals have maintained a link with Gloucester dating right back to Alfred the Great. It would seem perfectly reasonable that the town should be entitled ‘The Royal city of Gloucester’.
The Constitution of a ‘Royal’ title:- requires the approval of the sovereign. It’s the reigning monarch who decides to bestow the honour. Petitions can come directly from the prime minister or through the Cabinet Office.
If or when the Queen confers the title, the new name would come into effect on the date she signs and seals a Letters Patent. This being the legal instrument and in the form of an open letter, granting the title.
The process is similar for those towns that have the Latin suffix “Regis” meaning ‘of the king’ decision in the past and where it was usually bestowed on towns frequented by royalty.
Alan Shelley, November 2019, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.