Merchant Venturers Welcome Princess Royal as Honorary Member - Archives Reveal Famous Predecessors
By AnnaClark | Monday, June 18, 2012, 14:30
The Princess Royal has become the latest member of the royal family to receive honorary membership of the Society of Merchant Venturers. The announcement tops off a royal month for Bristol, coinciding with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Princess Anne opens Merchants' Academy in February 2011
Since receiving its first royal charter from Edward VI in 1552, the Society has extended honorary membership to ten members of the royal family, most recently to Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh.
David Marsh, Master of the Society, said: "The Merchants are honoured to present the Princess Royal with the freedom of the Society. Princess Anne is known for her extensive charitable work and her commitment to enhancing the lives of those less fortunate, very much in keeping with the Society's own values.
"The Princess Royal has demonstrated a keen interest in greater Bristol over the years, having recently opened the M-Shed, visited the Alabaré Bristol Home for Veterans and toured and opened our own Merchants' Academy in Withywood."
Francis Greenacre, a Merchant Venturer, has marked the occasion by delving into the archives. "Over the Society's long history, the Merchants have welcomed around 80 honorary members," said Francis. "Surprisingly, amongst the earliest recorded is Major General Thomas Harrison, a parliamentarian who had signed the death warrant of Charles I.
"Thereafter certain Prime Ministers, including Winston Churchill, ministers, Lord Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, MPs and distinguished soldiers and sailors were admitted as honorary freemen. A few may have been elected in the hope of future service to the city, but most were evidently admitted in grateful recognition of services already rendered to the nation and to Bristol."
The first royal to accept honorary membership was Prince Frederick of Wales in 1738.
Francis continued: "Prince Albert was elected to receive the honour in 1842, just a few days before he visited the city to launch the ss Great Britain. More recently in 1953, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was presented with the freedom of the Society.
"In the twentieth century honorary members included military heroes such as Field Marshal Earl Roberts in 1904, Admiral Sir David Beatty in 1919 and Field Marshal Earl Haig in 1920, but there were also those honoured in connection with education. Sir Herbert Warren, a distinguished educationalist and the Oxford Professor of Poetry was elected in 1919 and in the same year, George Alfred Wills was recognised for his magnificent support of the new Bristol University, becoming the first of four members of the Wills family to be honoured in this way."