HIGH STEWARDS OF ROMSEY
A brief history of the ancient role of High Steward of Romsey
Sir Henry Wriothesley,
3rd Earl of Southampton
The ancient and ceremonial office of High Steward of Romsey was created under a Royal Charter - signed on 6th April 1607 by King James I & VI (1566(1603-1625) "by His special grace" granting borough status to the small town of Romsey. Prior to the creation of a Corporation and Court of Law, the civil administration of the town had been run by the Lord of the Manor - the Mother Abbess of nearby Romsey Abbey. The first High Steward was Sir Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624), a favourite of The King. Upon Lord Southampton's death in 1624, the Royal Charter had given the right for the Town's Corporation to appoint an "eminent man" to be successive High Stewards. To celebrate his visit in 1607, The King planted some mulberry trees at Broadlands.
The head of Romsey's 1607 Royal Charter
In May 1935, the Romsey's Town Council decided to revive the office of High Steward of Romsey - a post which had been vacant since the death in 1865 of The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), the former Prime Minister of the UK and previous owner of the Broadlands Estate. The post was given to Edwina's father - Lt-Col. The Rt Hon. Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple (1867-1939), who had been a local Member of Parliament (MP) until 1932 when he was raised to the Peerage, had been elected as a Borough Councillor in 1934 and was also a County Councillor, so was already held in 'high esteem' with the people of Romsey.
Following the death of Lord Mount Temple in 1939, Romsey's Town Council decided to offer the post of High Steward to Mountbatten. In a letter of thanks that Mountbatten wrote to the Council, he expressed his gratitude and was touched that the honour was conferred without a single dissentient vote.
The Royal Visit during the 350th Anniversary of Romsey's Royal Charter in April 1957 -
(left to right) Pamela (Mountbatten's youngest daughter); Queen Elizabeth II; Edwina;
(obscured behind Edwina) Cllr H. Mackrell, The Mayor of Romsey;
Lt-Col. Sir Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
& Mountbatten (in the robes of High Steward of Romsey)
On 6th April 1957, to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of Romsey's Royal Charter, the town was honoured with a visit form Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022), accompanied by Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021). Upon her arrival, The Queen was met by Lt-Col. Sir Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington (1885-1972), The Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and of course Mountbatten (in his capacity of High Steward of Romsey). The Royal party attended a Service of Thanksgiving at Romsey Abbey, conducted by Canon The Rev W. E. Morris, Vicar of Romsey, with the lesson read by Prince Philip and the address made by The Rt Rev Dr Alwyn Williams (1888-1968), The Bishop of Winchester.
The Visit of Queen Elizabeth II
& Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh
during the 350th Anniversary of Romsey's
Royal Charter in April 1957
Following the Service, The Queen and Prince Philip went onto Broadlands, where The Queen planted two mulberry trees opposite those planted by King James I & VI (1566(1603-1625) in 1607 when he granted Romsey's Royal Charter. At a Civic Luncheon, Prince Philip was presented with a copy of the Royal Charter and made a speech where he said - "for quite a long time, Broadlands was a home from home to me... and I am not likely to forget that I started my married life here."
The Mountbattens welcome Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh to Broadlands
during the 350th Anniversary of Romsey's Royal Charter in April 1957
(left to right) Mountbatten (in the robes of High Steward of Romsey);
Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh and Edwina
In 1979, following Mountbatten's murder, his grandson - Norton, Lord Romsey (b.1947), who succeeded as 8th Lord Brabourne in 2005 and 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 2017, was appointed High Steward to succeed his illustrious grandfather. On 8th June 2007, Norton, Penny and their daughter The Hon. Alexandra Knatchbull, later The Lady Alexandra Hooper (b.1982) welcomed Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) and Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) at a Service of Thanksgiving in Romsey Abbey to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter of 1607. Following the service, the Royal party also planted several mulberry trees at Broadlands, like her Royal ancestor had done in 1607.
Norton, then 8th Lord Brabourne
(in the robes of High Steward of Romsey)
with his daughter Alexandra (left) awaiting the arrival of
Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip,
1st Duke of Edinburgh in 2007
Queen Elizabeth II unveiled
'The Romsey Charter Stone'
as part ofvthe 400th anniversary
celebrations in Romsey
Norton and Penny separated in 2010, following his public extra-marital affair and Norton subsequently decided to 'reduce' his commitments and local appointments including relinquishing the role of High Steward of Romsey, which he had held the office since 1979 - following Mountbatten's death. Upon his retirement, the Town Council invited Penny to take up the role. At her inauguration ceremony in March 2011, she reflected on a recent visit by Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) to Romsey and said - "it was a day that brought together many of the things that I most love and respect, history, tradition, patriotism, Broadlands and our town. This event is another occasion that brings together these same ingredients and it will become a memory I cherish." Penny is the first woman ever to be High Steward of Romsey.
RIGHT: Penny, Countess Mountbatten of Burma
(then styled Lady Brabourne)
in the robes of the High Steward of Romsey
Penny, Countess Mountbatten of Burma in the robes of the High Steward of Romsey
at the Romsey Remembrance Day Parade, November 2022
THE HIGH STEWARDS OF ROMSEY
1607-1624 Sir Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
1682-1689 Edward Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, 4th Viscount Campden
1689-1699 The Rt Hon. Charles Paulet, 1st Duke of Boulton, 6th Marquess of Winchester
1736-1757 Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston
? -1865 The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
1935-1939 Lt-Col. The Rt Hon. Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
1939-1979 Admiral of the Fleet The Rt Hon. Lord Louis Mountbatten,
1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
1979-2010 Norton Knatchbull, Lord Romsey who later succ. (2005) as 8th Lord Brabourne
& (2017) 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma
2010- Penelope Knatchbull, Lady Brabourne (later Countess Mountbatten of Burma)