Say hello to the Duke and Duchess of Bletchley

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THE Royals; always a tribe to polarise the plebs, from ‘What a bunch of pampered parasites’ to ‘Gawd bless ‘em all, they’re luvly.’

So to obtain a more balanced view I’ve decided to apply for a job recently advertised at Buck House which, for the extravagance of 14 grand a year, apparently involves running the Royal bath and doing a bit of skivvying.

The perks include working in the country’s most prestigious (and tax payer funded) palaces and (possible) deferential contact with members of the ‘Firm.’ So if I should bump into Her Maj I could always return the compliment and invite her to nose round my garden chalet – although of course I wouldn’t expect her to do any dusting.

In fact I did come into close proximity with Her Regalness in 1966, as a member of the ATC contingent on parade when she came to Bletchley, although why she ever wanted to come here was somewhat beyond me.

Anyway, in the wake of the Royal Coming the renaming of Bletchley Road to Queensway took place and the local area has many other Royal reminders, of which the ‘Regis’ of Grafton Regis is perhaps a bit if a giveaway.

However, the story of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV is too well known to need repeating and, of course, the village further merits a regal tag through the visits to Grafton Palace by Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and also Elizabeth I, who would also become acquainted with Salden House, at Mursley, and the sport of Whaddon Chase.

Also well known is Stony Stratford’s connection with Richard III, an association which featured in an outstanding pageant of Kings and Queens of England held on the town’s Market Square in the coronation year of 1937.

Of earlier times, in 959 King Edwy had died at the premature age of 19 and thereby widowed the 16-year-old Aelfgifu. Of royal blood she owned the manor of Wing and although she probably caused the construction of the present church some evidence of 7th century work remains.

In fact in 1954 two Saxon doorways were uncovered at the extreme western end of the nave, some 20 feet above the level of the floor, and these openings were possibly once connected by a gallery, where a person of some importance, perhaps Aelfgifu, could worship in private.

Even after her death the village retained a regal role for she bequeathed Wing to her brother in law, King Edgar the Peaceful.

Probably destroyed during the Civil War, at Old Stratford and Woburn once stood Eleanor crosses, so named because they marked the resting places of the cortege that conveyed the body of Queen Eleanor from Harby, Lincolnshire, to her burial place at Westminster. Her death had occurred in the mid-winter of 1290 and her distraught husband, King Edward I, decreed that a stone cross should be erected at each of the 12 locations where the cortege stopped to rest.

Also from early times, Winslow had been the site of a Royal palace of the Mercian kings, and was also where Edward Barnwell died in August 1689. He was reputed to be the King of the Gypsies, while at Old Wolverton – outside the west door of Holy Trinity church – may be seen a tombstone that commemorates a Queen of the Gypsies, who died in the parish long ago.

In July 1841 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came to Woburn Abbey, where at the banquet one of the serving maids observed, ‘She looked very sweet – though she is certainly a very plain person. They ate heartily and without any ceremony... Her mouth is not pretty when eating.’

Then in January 1845 the Royal couple again came to the area on a visit to Stowe House. Having travelled by train to Wolverton they continued their journey in a horse drawn carriage and at Wicken were greeted by all the members of the village club – not least because as a princess she had granted them the use of the name ‘The Victoria Club.’

But now to modern times, and I’m just off to fill out the job application. And who knows, I might even sweep some unattached female Royal off her feet, to keep me in a style to which I think I could become quite accustomed.

So stuff all that skivvying. Bring on the Duke and Duchess of Bletchley.

by John Taylor

> John Taylor writes the Way We Were column that appears in Milton Keynes Citizen most Thursdays