Lord-Lieutenants and High Sheriffs of Sussex on their royal visit hopes for the county
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The British monarch’s personal representatives, the Lord-Lieutenants and the counties’ High Sheriffs, share their hopes for the new duchy
With their diaries already packed when the royal wedding was announced, the Lord-Lieutenants of East and West Sussex missed the ceremony itself.
But Peter Field, Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, still sensed the wider effect the marriage ceremony had on the county. “It lifts the spirits of everybody,” he says. “I don’t think there is anyone in the US who doesn’t know that Sussex exists. The worldwide audience was between two to three billion – and they all know about Sussex. That can only be really beneficial to the county.”
Both Lord-Lieutenants and the High Sheriff for East Sussex, John Moore-Bick, were at Chichester Cathedral for a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. Susan Pyper, Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, believes even ardent republicans couldn’t fail to be moved by the royal wedding. “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of old-fashioned pride,” she says.
“There was always a fondness for Prince Harry, as there has been for Prince William, with the terrible loss of their mother. To be able to welcome him and his wife Meghan to the Duchy of Sussex will be hugely special.”
She says both Lord-Lieutenants offices have been inundated with requests for patronage and visits by the royal couple. She and the Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex are keen to take a joint approach – ensuring both counties receive equal attention.
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But she urges caution to those expecting the royal pair to be visiting every week. “They have other duties and responsibilities as well as Sussex,” she says.
“We need to manage our expectations as to how much we will be seeing them. They are an international couple, with international roles. We hope they come to share our affection for Sussex, but we can’t expect too much. I can imagine their office is pretty busy at the moment. It will take time to organise – the Royal diaries tend to plan up to six months in advance – although the odd thing can slip through the net.”
Her counterpart is looking forward to the Duke and Duchess’ first visit to the county.
“I think they will be interested in the contrast we have,” he says. “We have a lot of wealth here, but there is also quite a bit of poverty. We have got some fabulous countryside, brilliant heritage and lovely people here, but sadly we have some issues too which I suspect they will pick up on their radar and try to help us.”
He would want to try to provide a cross-section of what the county had to offer. “There’s the arts aspect and heritage,” he says. “I would love them to come to the Royal Pavilion, to visit Battle and Hastings and get involved in our arts festivals. I would also like them to visit some of our economic activity and the projects we have got combating homelessness and women’s issues.”
It is something echoed by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex: “We are going to have to be very careful to take a balanced approach to where they see first. It will take an awfully long time to just scratch the surface of both counties. There is so much diversity – the Gatwick diamond, the South Downs National Park, Chichester Theatres and Pallant House, the towns of Worthing, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Crawley, Midhurst and Horsham. We know what their interests are – we want to broaden those interests and get them all over Sussex in the next few years.”
On the day of the royal wedding Caroline Nicholls, the new High Sheriff of West Sussex, was taking part in mock trials as part of a Magistrates in the Community day with three schools.
“There was a moment when we were waiting between trials when nobody had seen the wedding dress,” she recalls. “One of the mothers brought it up on her phone.”
She is keen to show the royal couple the cities of Chichester and Brighton and Hove, and the volunteers and community groups based there. Among the groups she would like the royal couple to meet is the Dementia Hub in Tangmere which supports those suffering from and living with dementia. “There are lots of examples of people really working hard to raise funds and volunteer their time to their county,” she says.
The High Sheriff of East Sussex would like the Duke and Duchess to drop in on the Sussex Community Foundation too, so they can get an overview of the charities in the area, and the landscape of need across the county.
“It would be a good place to start,” he says. “The foundation covers the whole of East and West Sussex, and Brighton and Hove too. There is so much for them to see in Sussex – I would show them the High Weald, the Norman castles at Bodiam, Pevensey and Camber and the beautiful landscape. There is also the fantastic tech industry – Brighton and Sussex are in the vanguard of a lot of cutting edge stuff.”
There is no indication as yet whether the new Duke and Duchess would follow the lead of the Duke of Cambridge and make a home in their new duchy.
But the High Sheriff of West Sussex hopes that the Royal pair will do their homework when they do come to visit: “I went to a St George’s Day celebration where members of the Sussex regiment sang Sussex By The Sea,” she says. “They will have to learn it – a lot of people say Sussex By The Sea should be the county song.
“I think they will very quickly take the county to their hearts. It’s not very far for them to come from London – and there are some beautiful places to live. The Duchess of Sussex is a great example that if you’re determined in life you can get to the most amazing places.
“She’s a real role model for lots of young people to follow.”
And the Lord-Lieutenant for West Sussex believes that the return of the Sussex duchy will be good for commerce and the economy – especially tourism.
“I do expect more visitors will come,” she says.
“We have had more emails and interest in the last two weeks to our office than we’ve had for months. The US is so excited about it – there will be real international implications.”
She has met the Duke several times, and was impressed by his energy.
“He’s just a delight to have down here,” she says. “I’ve seen him at Midhurst and at Goodwood.
“He’s a very natural, passionate, out-going young man who can speak to anybody and make them feel comfortable. That is a gift which he has inherited from his mother.
“From what I can see the Duchess is very similar.”
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East Sussex’s new High Sheriff has an unusual claim to fame with the Duke of Sussex – having once tripped over his feet while on a visit to the School of Infantry in Warminster. “I was there doing a talk as general secretary of the Forces Pension Society,” recalls John Moore-Bick. “I had to walk across the television room and there was this long pair of legs stretched out which I tripped over. He apologised and I apologised, and then I realised who it was!”