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Preface by the Chairman

This Report is respectfully presented to Her Majesty The Queen through the Lord Chancellor. It has been a privilege to have been asked to chair the Review on which it is based, and to gain at first hand a knowledge of the working of these fascinating institutions which have been part of English history for so many centuries. During the months in which I have lived with it I have learned an enormous amount, not only about their history and their legal and constitutional status but also about the countless individuals who have loved them, and who continue to do so.

Part of the impetus for the Review concerned Westminster Abbey in particular, after a difficult episode in its history, and the additional fact that neither Westminster Abbey nor St. George's Chapel, Windsor were included in recent legislation raised expectations that their procedures too should be seen to be accountable and transparent. This is by no means the first time that either institution has been subjected to review, and indeed they have already been considered in the past in the context of cathedrals. Nevertheless there is no precedent for the nature of the present Review, directed at them alone. Such a Review is timely, whatever the particular circumstances in which it was set up. It remains the case that misunderstandings and myths still prevail about these institutions, and we accept that their special category as Royal Peculiars, as well as their separate and complex histories, requires separate treatment. In the event our terms of reference also included the Chapels Royal, which are much smaller in scale, and different in many respects, yet which must seem equally or even more arcane to the average member of the public. In an age when historical knowledge is frequently undervalued, yet when popular history thrives as perhaps never before, I firmly believe that it will be helpful to everyone if more is known about the real working of these important and historic institutions.

The fact that I am myself a historian, even if not an English medievalist, may suggest a certain bias in favour of the institutions we have reviewed, and indeed my colleagues and I on the Review Group have set out to present them in their historical and constitutional context, very much with an eye to removing some of the misconceptions already mentioned. However they are also working institutions in the contemporary world, with many obligations in addition to their primary religious purpose, and we have been given free and full access to their accounts, management information and all other materials we requested. It must be acknowledged that many people, from Parliamentarians to the general public, feel that they have, or should have, a stake in them. Whatever their constitutional status, we do not believe that it is in the interests of the institutions to remain aloof from that wider interest, or to fail to answer it in an appropriate way. All historic institutions must adapt, if they are to survive and play an appropriate role in contemporary life, and particularly so in present conditions when a high public doctrine is increasingly regarded with suspicion.

We are currently in a world unimaginable to the founders and early Deans of these institutions, one in which the monarchy itself is frequently questioned and the Church has adopted bureaucratic structures based on management models. In such a context, it may be tempting to some, and it is always tidier, to iron out anomalies. Indeed we have looked hard to see how far the Royal Peculiars should now follow patterns of good practice and regulation adopted for other ecclesiastical bodies, and some of our recommendations tend in that direction. In deciding how to carry out the Review and in determining our main questions we have been enormously helped by Heritage and Renewal, the Report of the Archbishops' Commission on Cathedrals (1994), which is a model of sensitivity, firmness and clarity. I am also grateful to the chair of that Commission, Lady Howe, for her advice at an early stage. However there can be no automatic presumption for change. Good reasons need to be offered, whether the recommendation is for change or for continued independence, and we set out in the Report when and why we have come to the conclusion that change is desirable, and when and why we see no reason to recommend it.

I should like to commend the Deans of the Royal Peculiars for seeing that a review was timely and for petitioning Her Majesty to allow it to be set up. We have had close contact with the Deans of Westminster and Windsor and with Major General David Burden, the Receiver General at Westminster Abbey, and Lt. Colonel Nigel Newman, the Chapter Clerk for the College of St. George, and we are grateful to them for all the help and information which they have willingly and patiently provided. We have also been greatly helped by the Bishop of London, as the Dean of the Chapels Royal, the Revd. Willie Booth, the Sub-Dean, and the Revd. Paul Abram and the Revd. Denis Mulliner, the Chaplains of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London and of the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, as well as by Major General Geoffrey Field, Resident Governor of the Tower of London.

Many others have given invaluable help and service in the course of the Review and in preparing the publication of this Report. I would particularly like to thank our Administrative Secretary, David Long, for his good humour and his efficiency and my secretary at Keble College, Trish Long, for her assistance and help, especially in liaison matters. Philip Mawer, Richard Hopgood and Ingrid Slaughter have given valuable advice from within Church House, and I owe bibliographical and other hints to Patrick Wormald. But in particular I would like to thank my colleagues, the Very Revd. Raymond Furnell, the Dean of York, who also served on the Archbishops' Commission on Cathedrals, Sir Brian Jenkins, Deputy Chairman of Barclays PLC, who brought a business mind to bear on our enquiries, and Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who was our Legal Assessor and an unfailing source of wit and good sense.

Averil Cameron
1 February 2001


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