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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

‘I felt real weight of history behind me’

It was “goosebumps and hair standing on the back of my neck stuff” for the civic head of Alsager Town Council on Sunday when he read the proclamation to formally announce to Alsager King Charles III’s accession to the throne.

The historic task fell to town council chair Coun Phil Williams, who addressed the watching crowd on the green by Alsager Civic at 4.30pm.

A tradition that has been passed down through the centuries to inform the country of a new monarch, Sunday’s brief ceremony followed events at St James’s Palace in London on Saturday morning when the King’s accession to the throne was proclaimed by the

Accession Council, two days after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Further proclamations followed across the country. In Cheshire, the first took place in Chester where the proclamation was announced by the High Sheriff of Cheshire Jeannie France-Hayhurst.

A similar ceremony was then held at Cheshire East Council’s HQ in Sandbach before occurring at other local town councils.

On Monday, Coun Williams said: “When I saw how the whole process was being conducted first from St James’s Palace, which then flowed out to local authorities, it really was fascinating.

“On a personal level, I was listening to the proclamation in London while I was in the car on Saturday morning, and I felt prickles on the back of my neck. I knew that I would be involved pretty soon.”

But it all happened very quickly so there wasn’t an awful lot of time to prepare,” he said. “But in some ways that helped because it was a more intimate occasion – I didn’t even have a microphone.

“But there was a real community atmosphere to the occasion, and everyone was really positive about how it went. There was real sense that this had spread to Alsager from St James’s Palace.”

Coun Williams attended the proclamation at Westfields, Sandbach, at 3pm on Sunday before heading back to Alsager in time for the proclamation that he read out in the town at 4.30pm.

“I didn’t know how many people would turn up, but the turnout was very good. I don’t know exact figures but there was a lot of people of all ages and from all backgrounds,” he explained.

“As I didn’t have a mic, I asked people to gather round and said a few remarks. When I read out the proclamation, I really felt the weight of history behind me.

“People have done this for centuries; the announcement of a new monarch going all the way from London around the country.”

He added: “You can be a bit glib about this, but it really felt that you were part of something a lot bigger – that you were close to the fabric of how this whole country operates.

“I would never have imagined in all my days that I would do something like that. Whatever your views of the monarchy are, this trumped all that. It was bigger than that and it was a privilege to be involved.”

Earlier, paying tribute to the Queen on behalf of the town council, Coun Williams, had said: “It is with great sadness that our country and its friends and allies around the world learn of the death of our sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout her long and momentous reign, she showed an unwavering commitment to public service and a stamina and fortitude that won admiration worldwide. Her example impressed world leaders and politicians of all persuasions.”

Coun Williams mentioned how earlier this year, during the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations, Emmanuel Macron, president of France, “a country that has long been a republic, referred to the ‘golden thread’ of friendship and service that the Queen represented and embodied.”

Coun Williams said: “Her majesty will be mourned and missed for her personal qualities as well as the duration of her reign and the link she represents with previous generations.
“It has been noted that her first prime minister was Sir Winston Churchill, born in 1874.

Her last prime minister, Liz Truss, was born 101 years later. Few leaders in history will have seen so much and served so long.

Coun Williams said that in Alsager, across the region as well as the country, the Commonwealth and the whole world, there will be people with personal memories of the Queen.

“You may have shaken her hand, waved at her from a crowd, chatted with her at a royal event. You may never have seen her ‘live’ but respected and admired her for the values she upheld.”

A book of condolence has been opened at the town council offices and flowers can be placed at the flagpole on the green outside. Those leaving flowers are asked not to leave cellophane.

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