A Very Special Royal Bond

The Royal Forestry Society is proud to pledge allegiance to His Majesty King Charles on his upcoming Coronation.

By Wendy Necar · April 19, 2023

Above: RFS Gold Medal presentation to Duchy of Cornwall Head Forester Geraint Richards: Credit Charles Sainsbury-Plaice

His Majesty The King’s life-long interest in woodland and conservation has been well documented.

We were honoured when, as HRH Prince of Wales, he agreed to become RFS President in 1982 as we marked our Centenary.

President Ben Herbert says: “His Majesty has always retained an active interested in the work of other foresters and woodland managers. Under his stewardship, The Duchy of Cornwall woodlands have become among some of the best managed in the country. As an organisation we are proud to pledge our loyalty to our King.”

His Majesty The King and the Duchy of Cornwall have continued to be actively involved with the RFS in the decades since. Among other events His Majesty the King  has:

  • attended three Whole Society Meetings;
  • initiated our Duke of Cornwall Award and presented it at least three times;
  • presented two Gold Medal and a Long Service Award; and
  • was present alongside Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to unveil the Queen’s Green Canopy Junior Forester Award.


Above, centre: First use of the ceremonial spade at the Whole Society Meeting at Thoresby Park in May 1984. Holding the tree is Dennis Turnbull, retiring Head Forester, Thoresby. Deputy President George Stevenson looks on. The spade is still in use today. Left and right, joining RFS members on WSM events

Former Presidents Andrew Woods and Sir James Scott both recall meeting him:

Andrew Woods says: “I last met the then Prince of Wales at a delightful party he threw for all his Duchy of Cornwall tenants in Lostwithiel. This also included the presentation of the RFS Gold Medal to his Forest manager Geraint Richards.

“In conversation he came over as the enthusiast we all know him to be in terms of championing matters of the environment, and encouraging sound management of existing woodland and the need to plant much more. ”

Sir James said: “At my most recent meeting with His Majesty, at Westonbirt in March 2022, his passion (much over used word, but so true in his case) for all things forestry burned as brightly as ever; and he was still putting the planting spade he received as RFS president to good use. An example to us all.”

Highlights include:

In October 1982 the QJF announced: “It would be difficult to imagine a more propitious start to the Society’s second century than being led into it by our Royal President, HRH The Prince of Wales”. Read it here

Just a month later, in November 1982, HRH The Prince of Wales addressed the Conference on Forestry and Conservation hosted by the RFS at the Royal Society of Arts.  He was also speaking as Patron of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, of the Men of Trees and of the British Deer Society. He told the audience he believed forestry and conservation were compatible.

In his New Year message in the January 1983 QJF, HRH referred to that speech. He had also called for a more sympathetic treatment of our limited land resources. In the message he says: “ I hope we can make it our business to achieve a real co-operation between a profitable forestry industry and the fundamental care of the countryside.”

In May 1983, the Whole Society Meeting (WSM) included a day at the Duchy of Cornwall woodlands at Lostwithiel. Members were joined by HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH Princess of Wales. At Restormel he talked about the importance of experimentation in planting trees and learning from the successes and the mistakes. Scott Leathart, editor of the QJF, presented HRH with reprinted copies of Elwes and Henry’s ‘The Trees of Great Britain and Ireland’. Read a report of the visit and the then Prince of Wales’ speech here.

In his New Year message in January 1984, HRH referred to the WSM visit and how those discussions had influenced policy in the Duchy woodlands: “ I very much enjoyed the opportunity to discuss and argue with members about our woodland policy and it was particularly helpful to hear informed criticisms of our efforts.” The discussions had included talk about continuous cover at Tavistock woodlands which Duchy staff had subsequently visited. Their visit resulted in a small scale trial of their own.

Above, the Duke of Cornwall Award and, centre, being presented for the first time to Lady Colman of the Malshangar Estate, Hampshire and right to Peter Dennis and the Earl of Shaftsbury of the  St Giles’s Estate, Wimbourne St Giles, Dorset

In April 1984, the Duke of Cornwall Award for Forestry and Conservation was announced as ‘a permanent recognition’ of the initiative the Society took with its Centenary Conference.

In May 1984, HRH again attended the WSM. This time he joined members at Thoresby Park, part of the Dukeries tour, where he planted an oak tree. An engraved stainless steel spade was presented to him by Jeannette Harris on behalf of the Society to mark his Presidency. Jeannette’s brother’s firm in Warrington had forged the spade and made two in case of a mistake. At the following day’s meeting at Brocklesby, the second spade was presented to the Society by Mrs Harris and was used for the first time to plant a commemorative tree there. The spade is still in use today for ceremonial plantings.

HRH also presented the RFS Gold Medal for Distinguished Services to Forestry to Scott Leathart, Editor of the QJF and previously Secretary of the RFS. Scott was also the author of several books. HRH also presented Thoresby’s retiring Head Forester Dennis Turnbull with an autographed copy of NDG James’s ‘A Short history of English Forestry’.

In the July 1985 the Duke of Cornwall Trophy was unveiled in the QJF. HRH had specified that it should be a traditional tankard design. It was designed by John Makepeace and made of burr oak in the Parnham workshops. The trophy is still hotly contested today.

In November 1985, in the Council Chamber of the Duchy of Cornwall in London, the trophy was awarded for the first time. HRH Prince Charles presented it to Lady Colman of the Malshangar Estate, Hampshire.

In October 1992, HRH again presented the Duke of Cornwall Award. This time it was won by St Giles’s Estate, Wimbourne St Giles, Dorset, and presented to Peter Dennis and the Earl of Shaftsbury at an event at St James’ Palace.

In July 1995 at the Royal Show, HRH presented the Duke of Cornwall Award to Sir James Scott for his woodlands at Rotherfield Park.

In May 2011 HRH attended his third Whole Society Meeting. He joined members when they visited Highgrove as part of the event organised by the Gloucestershire Division in the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean. Read the report on line in the July QJF.

Above, from left: Meeting then RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd, unveiling the Queen’s Green Canopy Jubilee Junior Forester Award and presenting a Long Service Award to Richard Townsend at Westonbirt Arboretum (Credit Johnny Hathaway)

In May 2014, the RFS was a founder member of the UK Squirrel Accord. The RFS’s then Chief Executive Simon Lloyd attended the official launch hosted by HRH at Dumfries House.

In June 2019, in his role as Duke of Cornwall, HRH presented Geraint Richards, Head Forester for the Duchy of Cornwall, with the RFS Gold Medal for distinguished services to forestry.

In October 2021 HRH was alongside Her Majesty The Queen as she unveiled The Queen’s Green Canopy Jubilee Junior Forester Award at Balmoral Castle. The unveiling marked the start of the official tree planting season.

In March 2022, HRH presented an RFS Long Service Award to the Head Arborist Richard Townsend while visiting the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.