After a record number of Royal visits in the first part of the year (The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, The Duchess of Cambridge and The Princess Royal, all within a fortnight), the past few months have been largely free of Royal visits. The Prince of Wales will be back in Gwent shortly, however – so keep an eye on www.royal.gov.uk for details.
After the bumper crop of honours and awards for people living in Gwent in the New Year’s Honours List, it was a great delight to see so many more people honoured in the Queen’s Birthday List in June. Two Dames (Claire Clancy and Hilary Boulding) in one List must be something of a record! It was particularly gratifying to see Ron Jones, 100 years young and still actively selling poppies for the Royal British Legion, honoured with a BEM; but congratulations are due to all those recognised in this way. How lucky we are to have a system like this, that allows anybody to nominate someone they think is worthy of recognition by The Queen.
This period also saw a significant focus on our Armed Forces, with Gwent once again hosting Wales’ national Armed Forces Day in Caerphilly. The support from local people was exceptional, and much credit is due to Caerphilly County Borough Council for their support to this prestigious event; but similar events took place all over Gwent, many of them preceded by flag-raising ceremonies at the start of Armed Forces Week. Serving and former servicemen and women take huge comfort from this recognition, by the general public, of the sacrifices they were and are prepared to make on behalf of the nation.
May is the month for Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, and again it was fantastic to see no less than 60 people from Gwent attending. Invitees from Gwent covered a wide range of people, most of them individuals who had given that little bit extra to their local communities. I’ve been twice now to a Garden party, and they’re really special occasions.
I have personally been much involved in the past few weeks with the selection process for new magistrates in Gwent. Many people don’t know that magistrates (Justices of the Peace, to give them their more formal title) are volunteers, who give their time for free out of a sense of public spiritedness and duty. The selection process is rigorous, but it’s a most rewarding part-time role. Our British system of justice could not operate without our magistrates, and we all owe them a big debt of gratitude.