October 2010

HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is to become President of the Greenwich Foundation, the charity that cares for the buildings and grounds of the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC). The ORNC stands on the site of the palace created by the first Duke of Gloucester in the fifteenth century, so there is a strong link between HRH and the place.

His three year Presidency demonstrates the Duke of Gloucester’s commitment to support the Foundation in promoting understanding of our architectural heritage and celebrating the unique history of the site.

The Greenwich Foundation manages the outstanding group of baroque buildings built by Sir Christopher Wren c 1700 as a hospital for naval pensioners, next to the River Thames. The present day ORNC is one of London’s most-visited tourist attractions, and includes:

*Discover Greenwich: the new £6 million visitor centre which unlocks the history of Maritime Greenwich and has already been visited by over half a million people since it opened six months ago;

*The Painted Hall: probably the finest dining hall in the Western world, the Painted Hall is decorated with stunning paintings by Sir James Thornhill, and is part of the Wren and Hawksmoor’s King William Court;

*The Chapel of St Peter and St Paul: the breathtaking 18th century chapel reconstructed to James "Athenian" Stuart’s design in 1779.

The Duke of Gloucester’s ancestral links to Greenwich go back to 1426 when Henry V's brother Humphrey, the 1st Duke of Gloucester, obtained the freehold to the Manor of Greenwich. The first royal owner of the Manor, Duke Humphrey enclosed 200 acres, forming the Royal Park, and built a tower on top of the hill where the Royal Observatory stands today. He was a keen scholar and collector of books, and amassed the largest private library in England at Greenwich, now at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Humphrey began building a palace on the site of a monastic estate by the river in Greenwich, which he named Bella Court. The palace became home to many future Kings and Queens and was the birthplace of King Henry VIII. Although demolished in the 17th century and replaced by the Wren’s Greenwich Hospital - which is now the Old Royal Naval College - the Duke’s former palace lies two metres or so below the surface. It was excavated in the 1970’s and many of the finds are now on show in Discover Greenwich.

HRH Duke of Gloucester said "I am delighted to lend my support to the valuable work done by the Greenwich Foundation at the Old Royal Naval College, in conserving these internationally-renowned buildings and bringing the public here in ever-increasing numbers. It is also personally gratifying to re-establish the historic link between the Dukes of Gloucester and Greenwich, as part of the rich story of the place".

Duncan Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, The Greenwich Foundation said "The Foundation is honoured that the Duke of Gloucester has agreed to become our President, and we very much look forward to working with him to continue our work of conserving the buildings for future generations to appreciate, and bringing them to life for today’s public".

*About HRH Duke of Gloucester*

The Duke of Gloucester is the second son of the late Duke of Gloucester and the late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (third daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuch).

His Royal Highness is a grandson of George V and a first cousin to The Queen.  He succeeded his father in June 1974.

Born Prince Richard of Gloucester on 26 August 1944 at Northampton, he was christened Richard Alexander Walter George. When he was four months old he was taken by his parents to Australia, where for two years (1945-47) his father was Governor-General.

He is a qualified architect and keen historian. He is patron of a number of charities, including the Heritage of London Trust, the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association and the Society of Antiquaries.

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