My Lords, I can confirm that the Queen has agreed, as a mark of Royal favour, to confer Royal Borough status on the London Borough of Greenwich.
This rare honour is to be bestowed in recognition of the historically close links forged between Greenwich and our Royal Family, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and the Borough’s global significance as the home of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich Mean Time and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Didn’t see that coming. Actually, it appears various Greenwich councillors have been eyeing up the honour for a long time, and “Royal Borough of Greenwich” has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Signs like the one above will soon become museum pieces. Indeed, it’ll be a good time to be in the sign-making business, as those “welcome to the millennium borough” signs can now be recycled into souvenir ashtrays or whatever. I’m sure someone at the town hall is already eyeing up some gothic fonts…
But what does being a “royal borough” mean? A little bit of research on the internet… and, it’d appear, not a lot. Windsor has held the title since 1277. But even then, the title of “royal borough” held no extra privileges, even for its modern day successor, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Like many royal trinkets, we’ve Queen Victoria to thank for the slow spread of the royal borough – she posthmously conferred the honour on the brand-new Metropolitan Borough of Kensington in 1901, because she wanted to mark the place of her birth. Kingston‘s royal borough status dates back to 1927, when George V decided to commemoratee its Saxon connections. In Wales, Canaerfon was once a royal borough, and is now a royal town.
So it’s an honour, and it’s a very nice honour and all that, but… whisper it, I actually quite like being a “London borough”. A royal borough could be anywhere, but I like the fact that I pay taxes to a body which unambiguously states that I’m in the capital of the world. But it’s not as daft as “City of Greenwich”, which the council actually bid for at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
Once the champagne corks have stopped popping, hopefully there won’t be a row over how much it’ll cost – there’s very few signs in the borough containing its full name, so it’s not as if a mass replacement job is needed. But I hope we don’t end up with some gaudy “Royal Greenwich” title slapped all over dustbin vans.
Just, please, nobody tell the estate agents and housing developers. The first lot to come up with a “Live like a queen in Royal Greenwich SE28!” slogan will be sent to the Tower.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to send a flunky to grit the front steps.
UPDATE 11.45PM, 6 JANUARY: Brockley Central ponders how our neighbours in Lewisham should respond… while Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts says “people living in Greenwich will want it to say ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich’ on the street sign“. Get ready for that row over rebranding…