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21 April 2006
On Wednesday 28 June 2006, the Royal Hospital Chelsea will be granted the prestigious honour of the Freedom of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The Freedom of the Borough ceremony will be conducted by the new Mayor of the Royal Borough in Duke of York Square. This will be followed by a number of scarlet uniformed pensioners marching down the King's Road to Chelsea Old Town Hall where a reception will take place to mark the special occasion.
The Freedom of the Borough honour is a medieval accolade that saw 'freemen' granted special rights, such as pasturage on common land and exemptions from certain tolls and dues. Today, the privileges associated with office hold no official rights but the pensioners, as Honorary Freemen, will be invited to take part in all important ceremonial occasions in the borough in the future.
2006 marks an important year for the Royal Hospital Chelsea as it is the third year of the Chelsea Pensioners' Appeal, which aims to raise £35 million by the end of March 2008.
The money is urgently needed to build and equip a new infirmary (care home) and to modernise and upgrade the Chelsea Pensioners' sheltered living accommodation in the famous Sir Christopher Wren designed Long Wards. The fundraising effort will ensure that the requirements of current legislation will be met and that future pensioners can benefit from a high standard of care. £15 million has already been donated and pledged but the charity still has a long way to go to meet its targets.
As General Sir Jeremy Mackenzie GCB OBE, Governor of the Royal Hospital, comments: "The Chelsea Pensioners are thrilled to be receiving the Freedom of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and are looking forward to celebrating the honour during the last week of June. We are pleased to have the opportunity to present a public face along the King's Road on this special day which should also help us to raise the profile of our fundraising cause."
The Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea added, "The Chelsea Pensioners are such a noticeable part of borough life and really contribute to our community, be it at events in the area or just by being out and about on our streets. I am very pleased that we are able to bestow the honour of the Freedom of the Borough on these fine gentlemen who have given so much for our country in the past and I wish them well in their current fundraising effort."
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