Residents are waiting in excitement as Eaton Bray will welcome a member of the royal family to St Mary’s Church, which is celebrating its 800th birthday.
HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, will be making a special visit to the village as 2019 marks the building’s landmark anniversary.
The prince is the first cousin of Her Majesty The Queen and the grandson of George V, while he is known for his passion for architecture.
His Royal Highness should certainly be thrilled to visit the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, which Sir John Betjeman said has “nave arches of absolute and quite unexpected magnificence”, and of which architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner said: “its interior one will hardly forget. It is surprisingly splendid, thanks to the two arcades.”
It is thought that an 11th or 12th century church may have first stood on the site, built of wood or wattle and daub, before the church we know today was completed in 1219.
In 1490 the Manor of Eaton was granted to Sir Reginald Bray, from whom the village takes its name, and whom is responsible for the present day appearance of the church’s chancel, nave roof, and clerestory windows. He is also one of several men credited with finding Richard III’s fallen crown and placing it on the head of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin website states: “The building is a fine testament to previous generations but its real importance lies in being the focus of the life of a community of Christians today, who worship here, thus maintaining an unbroken tradition of prayer and praise over many hundreds of years.”
Residents are sure that His Royal Highness will appreciate the rich history of the church and its historical figures, with the Duke having graduated from Magdalene College, Cambridge, with a degree in architecture in 1966.
Prince Richard had planned a full-time career in architecture but, on the death of his elder brother, he became his father’s heir and took on increased royal duties and the responsibility for the family estate at Barnwell in Northamptonshire.
He is married to Birgitte van Deurs, The Duchess of Gloucester, and the royal couple live in Kensington Palace.