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Keep your eyes Peeled for a right royal blockbuster as Tory rising star meets 500-year-old queen

January 24, 2013
RURAL CHIEF: Minister Owen Paterson

RURAL CHIEF: Minister Owen Paterson

ITS rich roots of royal patronage and political innovation have been interwoven for almost 200 years.

But next month Drayton Manor will be party to a new union between a historic crowned head and a rising star from the 21st century Coalition government of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron.

The theme park’s banqueting halls will witness a modern-day minister from Westminster’s corridors of power on the same ‘chat-show’ platform as a 16th century English queen who propelled her country to the pinnacle of European supremacy.

Tutbury Castle curator Lesley Smith will invoke the spirit of a golden age of Gloriana playing Queen Elizabeth I – the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII and later beheaded Anne Boleyn – as one of the guest speakers at Tamworth Conservative Association’s annual dinner.

“Her passionate belief in the English people and lack of marital ambition combined with a brilliant mind and outstanding political skills is why she was so hugely successful,” said historian Lesley, who believes the dynamic and patriotic influence of the first monarch of an Elizabethan era has stood the test of time – from the 1500s until the present day.

“Certainly she confounded all her critics in a reign which lasted 45 years.”

The local Tory party faithful will then be treated to a speech from North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – destined for higher office within government circles.

The timing of the local association’s big event could not have been more poignant after the PM Cameron’s ‘In Out, Shake It All About’ referendum pledge to the nation to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then give people a “simple choice” between staying in under those new terms, or taking the exit door.

Where better for the association to stage their annual fundraiser than Drayton Manor which certainly combines the heritage of political and royal favour – and can justifiably claim the title of spiritual home of the modern-day Tory Party.

So the political irony should also not be lost on guests at a venue that was once the home to Sir Robert Peel who was founder of the police force and the politician credited with laying the foundations of social stability and prosperity in Victorian Britain as well as setting the modern-day Tory Party on its way.

Twice holding the position of prime minister under William IV and Queen Victoria, he penned the Tamworth Manifesto – the first party political manifesto in the history of the country – which accepted the Reform Act of 1832 and established the precedent that a new party in power takes on its predecessor’s legislation.

Present-day Tory statesman and former Home and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd described Sir Robert, Tamworth’s MP from 1830 until his death in 1850, as the “greatest and most effective peacetime Prime Minister Britain ever had ” and a man who achieved “change without revolution in violent times.”

Not the greatest of orators in the House of Commons, Sir Robert found his Tamworth home was the perfect place where he could mix the business end of politics with the monarchy and Victorian society at large.

In 1839 he was visited by the politically-savvy Dowager Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV, whose name was put to a whole host of locations around the world – probably best known for the city of Adelaide in South Australia; a town in Cambridgeshire; one in South Africa; plus numerous rivers, buildings, public houses in Leicestershire and even an asteroid.

While Queen, during William IV’s reign, she attempted to sway the monarch politically, being a strong Tory – and was often accredited with influencing behind the scenes the Reform Act of 1832 as it passed through parliament.

The Manor’s most famous royal visitor – Queen Victoria – rattled across the bridge which still stands today on November 28, 1843 with her Consort husband, Prince Albert, by her side.

After the visit to Sir Robert and Lady Peel, the queen, who was famous for NOT being amused, admitted that she’d rather live at Drayton as it was much warmer than her “chilly, draughty” Buckingham Palace – Victoria being the first British monarch to live there.

sir robert peel

TWIN A-PEEL: Drayton Manor's Sir Robert and Lesley Smith as Queen Elizabeth 1.

TWIN A-PEEL: Drayton Manor’s Sir Robert and Lesley Smith as Queen Elizabeth 1.


Today, only a solitary clock tower and a section of servants’ quarters remain to remind us of the local stately mansion where Queen Victoria, Waterloo’s battle-winning general, the Duke of Wellington, and the cream of London stage society were entertained in style.

The original house had a radical Victorian central heating system which in 1926 caused an explosion that destroyed the 78-roomed house, looked after in its hey day by 100 staff.

The most recent royal visitor to Drayton Manor was Prince Edward’s wife, The Countess of Wessex, who officially opened the park’s new hotel in September 2011 before going on to meet the Fat Controller in the land of Thomas The Tank engine.

Party organisers are urging people interested in attending the annual dinner on Friday, February 8 to make sure they don’t miss out on a great night.

Tickets are £35 each and can be obtained from fund-raising supremo John Brown on 0121 352 1152.

I personally can’t wait to hear Good Queen Bess’s talk as she transports the dinner guests back in time to tales of Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare on a voyage of discovery that lasted her entire reign.

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