On Monday 13 March, the Mayor of Chelmsford hosted a special ceremony outside the Civic Centre to mark Commonwealth Day.
This year, Commonwealth Day symbolises the UK’s commitment to the shared values and principals of the Commonwealth, including co-operation in economic and social development, diversity, respect, friendship, and the promotion of peace around the world.
Tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter
As well as recognising Commonwealth Day, March 2023 also marks ten years since the late Queen Elizabeth II signed the Commonwealth Charter on 11 March 2013.
The Commonwealth Charter is one of the most important documents in the long history of the Commonwealth family of nations.
It sets out the values and aspirations that unite the Commonwealth’s 56 independent countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific, and the 2.5 billion people who live within them.
The Commonwealth of Nations’ Flag of Peace
To celebrate the anniversary of this charter, a Commonwealth of Nations’ Flag of Peace was sent to every city in the UK – including Chelmsford.
Monday’s ceremony centred on this flag, which features a white dove of peace in the bottom right-hand corner.
The event was attended by the Mayor of Chelmsford, Councillor Sue Dobson, and her Consort, Keith Dobson; the Deputy Mayor of Chelmsford, Councillor Bob Massey; His Majesty The King’s Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst; the Mayor’s Chaplain, Revd Terry Brown; and various councillors, council officers and members of the public.
The ceremony began with the reading of the Commonwealth Proclamation by the Deputy Mayor of Chelmsford. The proclamation declared that:
“Today, the citizens of the member countries of our glorious Commonwealth remain loyal to the ideals contained in the Charter.
The need to challenge intolerance and inequality. The right of all humankind to health, education, food, and shelter.
The Charter demands that we tackle climate change and stop the pollution of our oceans.
But as Her Majesty had so graciously and eruditely referenced, at its core the Charter seeks peace. Peace both now and for the generations to come.”Excerpt from the Commonwealth Proclamation
Following this, a member of the Chelmsford Salvation Army Band, Geoff Jordan, stepped forward and performed the fanfare ‘Majesty’. The bugle was written by Andrew Carlisle in 2021 to celebrate the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Blessing the flag
The blessing of the flag was then carried out by the Mayor of Chelmsford’s Chaplain, Revd Terry Brown.
Following this, the Mayor gave a short speech during which she said:
“This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that Chelmsford joins the other 75 Cities of the UK to come together at one moment in time, celebrating this special anniversary and to fly the Commonwealth of Nations’ Flag of Peace.”Mayor of Chelmsford, Cllr Sue Dobson
His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst, also said a few words touching on the UK’s commitment to the shared values and principles of the commonwealth.
To finish the ceremony, a lone piper Jonathan Swan performed the piece ‘Highland Cathedral’ by Michael Korb and Ulrich Roever. It is inspired by events under the reign of King James I, when clan chiefs pledged to live in peace. A favourite of the late Queen Mother, the tune has been heard at prominent events around the world.
Later that evening, at 8pm, Chelmsford Cathedral’s bells rang out to mark this special occasion.
Due to exceptionally high winds on 13 March, it was not possible to raise the flag during the ceremony. It was instead flown from 15 March, once the high winds had receded.