Felsted School enjoyed the crowning moment of its 450 year celebrations today (6 May, 2014) as Her Majesty the Queen visited the School. Following in the footsteps of Her Majesty The Queen Mother, who visited for the 400th anniversary, it was an extremely special occasion.
The visit itself was separated into two parts; the first was a private lunch, prepared by Felsted's nervous but excited catering department; this was followed by a special assembly where Her Majesty unveiled two plaques. These plaques commemorated the 450th anniversary, and also the rebuilding of Follyfield boarding house, destroyed by fire in 2012.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, arrived at Felsted to glorious sunshine. They drove across The Front to be greeted by Felsted pupils and staff. Upon arrival at the Lord Riche Hall, which was opened by Princess Anne in 1989, the Royal couple were greeted to the National Anthem, played by Felsted’s Corps of Drums. They were then introduced to Headmaster Dr Mike Walker, Headmistress of the Preparatory School, Jenny Burrett, and Chairman of Governors, Mr John Davies, amongst others.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness were then escorted to lunch which began with a Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Terrine, before everyone enjoyed Pheasant Smitane in a Madeira, Mushroom and Cream Sauce. This was finished off beautifully by Spiced Pears poached in Red Wine. Head Girl Lydia Carrington, who sat next to HRH Prince Philip at lunch, commented; ‘They were both so down to earth and easy to talk to. His Royal Highness was asking me all about my Duke of Edinburgh Gold award. I don’t think it will sink in properly until later on this evening that I actually met them!’
The 450th Anniversary Ceremony followed, with short speeches by the Chairman of Governors and the Headmaster. These were also accompanied by some wonderful singing, including Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ and a mesmeric performance of the Felsted 450th anthem, ‘Let The People Praise You’, specifically composed for this year by Alexander L'Estrange. Head Boy Sam Seacombe commented; ‘It was awe-inspiring to sit that close to one of the longest reigning monarchs, and talk to someone with such a depth of experience. It will be difficult to beat this moment!’
Members of the Felsted Common Room presented the HM Queen and HRH Prince Philip with a painting titled ‘Carol Service Felsted School 1972’ by David Plested, formerly of the Common Room. Her Majesty and the HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were also given a leather-bound copy of ‘Garde Ta Foy: The Riche Heritage of Felsted School’ by Alastair Grierson-Rickford, former Common Room member and Felsted Historian.
There was also a presentation of a boot scraper, which is part of a Royal tradition here at Felsted, as the HM the Queen Mother also received a boot scraper on her visit for the 400th anniversary.
Following the anniversary ceremony, the HRH the Queen was presented with a posy of flowers by Mary Alcott, from the Pre-Preparatory School. She also received a FelsTed from Oliver Stonham, a Preparatory School pupil, and the HRH Duke of Edinburgh received a Tie from Deputy Head of School James Halfhide.
Dr Mike Walker was ecstatic with how the day went; ‘There were lots of little touches that one could talk about; the royal couple spoke to a number of our Preparatory pupils who presented a tableau of Felsted through the ages and some of our Senior students who showed them displays of Felsted activities, as the procession went into the main hall.
I have been referring to this visit as the tale of three Elizabeth’s; the School was founded in 1564, during the reign of Elizabeth I; HM The Queen Mother came here 50 years ago; and now of course we have the outstanding honour for the School of the reigning Monarch visiting. When I pointed this out to the HM Queen at lunch she burst out laughing! They were very relaxed, informal, and absolutely lovely.
This visit means so much to everyone here. I am overwhelmingly proud to have been Headmaster at such an incredible event.’