We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen’s dedication to the UK and the commonwealth has been a real inspiration to us all. We thank the Queen for her service and send our deepest sympathies to her family.
Normally on a Friday there are some light assemblies but last week, to pay respect to the Queen and her legacy, we changed the plan. Mrs Heard, Head of the Primary School, delivered a lovely assembly on the Queen as a servant leader and Dr Walker, Headteacher, addressed the Senior School on her reign and the scale of loss that is represented by her passing, and her selfless devotion to service as evidenced by an extraordinary seventy years on the throne. We will revisit this over the coming week in other collective assemblies.
Such was the length of service of the Queen and her devotion to all corners of her country, we imagine that most schools up and down the land will be taking time to reminisce about their direct experiences of her, and Dr Walker did the same, sharing with the school the late Queen’s personal connections to Pitsford as a village, as an estate and as a school.
As I am sure most of you will know, in the 1930s the Windsors were regular visitors to Pitsford Hall as guests of George Drummond, the head of Drummond Bank (which became the NatWest, and is now RBS). It is through the Drummonds the village has the name of its pub (The Griffin as that emblem, symbolically linked to wealth, was the crest of the Drummonds. It is also on the lido in the school).
The future Edward VIII when Prince of Wales was very close to the Drummonds and he was a very regular visitor, as was outlined in the most recent biography of him published by Andrew Lownie last year, which drew on research shared with him by our School Chaplain Reverend Trott, who is also a foundation Governor of the school.
As well as Edward VIII, the then Duke and Duchess of York (the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and their daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret stayed in Pitsford Hall on many, many occasions. Older residents of Pitsford were known to remember their stays with George Drummond, noting how friendly they were and how down-to-earth they seemed, which is an interesting insight bearing in mind the future life of the then Princess Elizabeth and the defining quality that she displayed when interacting with the thousands upon thousands of people that she met.
Reverend Trott has shared with Dr Walker stories shared with him by his older parishioners, of the princesses and their parents worshipping in our parish church (where we now hold school services) when they were visiting. The Queen’s passion for horses and horse riding was fuelled by her stays at Pitsford and it is a source of pride to the school that she and her sister learned to ride on the top lawn in front of the Hall. Indeed the Drummonds built a viewing gallery from which the Queen’s grandmother could watch them (unfortunately this gallery was demolished many years ago).
As the Pitsford estate left the hands of the Drummonds and became a school, the Royal Family continued to have a live connection with Pitsford Hall, especially in the case of the late Queen’s mother. Our Library’s foundation stone was laid by her when she visited the school. In her honour the school awards a scholarship in her name to the most accomplished students entering Year 7.
We shall continue to support our students and staff through this sad time of national mourning.
On Saturday it was confirmed that the funeral of the Queen will take place on 19th September. Due to its importance to the nation, the King has confirmed that Monday will be a bank holiday and for that reason the school will be closed on Monday 19th September and will reopen on Tuesday 20th September. We do not plan to close for any other days during the period of national mourning.
We intend to have a school commemoration service on Friday, more details to follow. In addition, the school has a Book of Condolence in Pitsford Hall and you are warmly invited to contribute to it.