Salisbury Cathedral was the grand setting for a special ceremony as people from across region became British citizens by pledging allegiance to the Crown. Holding a combined county ceremony here was fitting as the nation prepares to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta which helped shape modern democracy and the rule of law.
Twenty seven residents, along with families, friends and dignitaries from across different parts of Wiltshire and Dorset attended. Those taking part pledged their allegiance and were presented with a commemorative copy of Magna Carta as well as their citizenship certificate. The ceremony, attended by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Rose Troughton and HM Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, was jointly organised by the Wiltshire Lieutenancy Office, Wiltshire Council’s Register Office and Salisbury Cathedral. Members of the Salisbury Plain Military Wives Choir performed two songs during the ceremony.
Andre Louw was one of the residents taking part in the ceremony. He decided to move to the UK from South Africa with his British wife eight years ago while his daughters were still at school. He finally settled in Wilton and is now a manager of a local supermarket. He said: “I feel pretty much settled here and my wife and I will never move away. I’ve been to the Cathedral a number of times and seen the copy of the Magna Carta and I believe this all ties in really well.”
Khusbu Thapa is Nepalese by birth and has been living in the UK since 2007. She lives with her Nepalese husband in Amesbury and works in Salisbury Manor Care Home. Speaking before the event she said: “Living in the UK is quite different. I feel quite settled in Amesbury. It’s very friendly and I love it here. I wanted to become a British citizen. I have been looking forward to being a part of this special ceremony.”
Sarah Rose Troughton, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire, said: "This special ceremony in the Cathedral provides a unique opportunity to combine a warm welcome to new citizens from the counties of Wiltshire and Dorset with our celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. We can all reflect on what it now means to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and consider the rights and responsibilities of citizenship at both a national and local level."
Angus Campbell, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, said: “I am particularly delighted to take part in this very special citizenship ceremony and to welcome new citizens to this magnificent historical setting on behalf of the people of Dorset. Today we celebrated the contribution that new citizens have made to this country and to our local communities over the hundreds of years since the creation of the Magna Carta and recognise the enormous value of their skills and experience. We do this in the true spirit of that justice and those freedoms whose genesis was at Runnymede in 1215.”
Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “This is a special moment in these people’s lives when they pledge their allegiance and leave this ceremony as a British citizen. It will always be a day to remember for them. Taking this important step in the very month when we celebrate a key moment in our history, adds to the significance of the occasion.”
Cllr John Wilson, Chairman of Dorset County Council said: "Dorset County Council is very pleased to be working with Wiltshire Council to organise this special British Citizenship Ceremony. Becoming a British citizen is a very important personal event and we are delighted that some Dorset residents will be taking part in this ceremony at Salisbury Cathedral . This setting, together with the Magna Carta, will make the occasion very special. Organising Citizenship ceremonies is one of the regular functions of county councils which generally has a low profile - this event raises the profile of these important ceremonies for both the new citizens and for the future strength and identity of our communities."