Royale et loyale is a sentence that is not only a key part of the towns coat of arms, but augments the philosophy of the towns support to the royal cause over the centuries. Even during the English civil war that support never truly waivered even when the royalist were defeated. In 1643, the Parliamentarian forces under the command of Major General James Chudleigh advanced in an attempt to capture Launceston from the Royalists. The Royalist commander, Ralph Hopton, 1st Baron Hopton, stationed his forces on the summit of Beacon Hill, a steep hill which overlooks the town. The Parliamentarians captured the foot of the hill, but were unable to dislodge the Royalist forces from the top. Hopton led a counterattack down the hill and, despite fierce fighting and the arrival of Parliamentary reinforcements, forced Chudleigh’s troops to retreat.
In 1645 it is said that Madford House paid host to the then Prince of Wales, later Charles II when he was resident in Cornwall before his exile to France although Richard and Otho Peter state that he possibly lodged at the Assizes hall within the castle grounds.
It was to be another 250 years before another Royal visit but with the re-introduction of the then Duke of Cornwall and just a year later, George V, these visits increased (seen below left with the Royal car passing along a decorated Exeter Street, and below right with his wife at the Castle entrance).
Centuries-old tradition dictates that the eldest son of a monarch is made Duke of Cornwall and can receive his ‘feudal dues’ at Launceston Castle. Tradition has it, that the Duke is greeted at Polson and given a grey cloak, he is then led to the Castle where he is presented with a pair of white gloves, gilt spurs, a pound of pepper and cumin, and a hunting bow, on top of the other gifts.
His son, Edward VIII, who was then Duke of Cornwall, was the next Royal to visit in 1921, this time in a dual ceremony, with the first being to receive the feudal dues, and the second in laying the foundation stone for the new war memorial in Launceston’s Square.
The tradition of paying the feudal dues was broken in 1937, when King George VI received the payment in lieu of there being no sitting Duke of Cornwall. British Pathe filmed a documentary on King George’s visit in December 1937. The short film features the Town Clerk Stuart Peter reading out the proclamation and the Mayor Sidney Fitze presenting the King with a pound of pepper.
The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, was the next Royal visitor in 1949 where she was met by the then Mayor Thomas Fulford (below). She followed up this visit in 1956 when she was the Queen.
Prince Charles was the next Royal to visit paying a visit to the town in 1972 (below left). He followed up this visit in 1973 when he received the feudal dues in a special ceremony at Launceston Castle (below right).
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Launceston in 2011 to open the newly refurbished Town Hall. On the same visit Prince Charles also took the chance to pay a visit to Pennygillam Industrial Estate where he looked in on one of the Duchies businesses ‘Duchy Originals.’
The Royal Gallery