The Duke of Kent visited the Channel Islands this week with stops in Guernsey and Alderney. It was his first official trip to the islands for over ten years.
The Duke’s visit took place on October 17th. His first port of call was Alderney, the northernmost inhabited island in the group which sits around ten miles off the coast of France.
The Duke visited the Royal National Lifeboat Institute station there – Prince Edward is the President of the RNLI. The Alderney station, at Braye Harbour, provides a base for the twenty volunteers who man the boat and keep the waters around the small island as safe as they can. There was a lifeboat station on Alderney during Victorian times, but when it became difficult to crew, it was shut down. The station was re-established in 1985 when it was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent.
During his visit this week, the Duke of Kent met the volunteers and toured the station. He also presented longtime crew member, Billy Watt, with an inscribed vellum to thank him for his years of dedication. The Duke also handed over certificates of excellence to three members of the Alderney Ladies Guild – Marjory Bunn, Mavis Stretton and Terry Skerritt – for their work in raising funds for the RNLI on the island.
There was time for a spot of lunch on the island before the royal visitor popped into the Alderney Harbour Office and the RNLI gift shop. From there, the Queen’s cousin moved on to Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands.
The royal visit to Guernsey was focused on the St James Concert and Assembly Hall in St Peter Port, the main town on the island. The building has been a major part of Guernsey life since 1818 when it was opened as a church for the British garrison living there. It fell into disuse in the 1970s but was restored over the next few years and transformed into a concert and assembly hall. It was officially opened, in its new capacity, by the Duke of Kent in 1985.
During this visit, Edward unveiled a plaque marking the building’s bicentenary and met many of those who now keep St. James’ Hall running. He also toured an exhibition.
The Channel Islands are Crown Dependencies. As such, they are not part of the United Kingdom but are self-governing possessions of the Crown. They were part of the Duchy of Normandy, the considerable powerbase of William the Conqueror. Even today, The Queen is known as Duke of Normandy on the islands where she is represented by Lieutenant Governors.