Following the launch of our Lieutenancy Fund, Heart of Bucks spoke recently to the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Alexander Boswell, to discuss his role and hopes for the future.
How have you found the experience of being Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire?
It’s a great privilege to serve as the understudy to the Lord-Lieutenant. It comes with responsibility: I would have to step in if the Lord-Lieutenant became incapacitated for some reason. I have to keep myself briefed on all aspects of the role. Along with these duties comes the chance to spread positivity. I find it very rewarding to thank those who are working for the good of the community. We can help to bolster morale by acknowledging people when they are doing something worthwhile.
I particularly enjoy the opportunity to congratulate individuals and organisations on behalf of the Queen and to thank them for what they have done. As Chairman of the Honours Committee, I’m saddened that the system is still misused as a form of patronage. There’s no justification for this. We now have an honours system which works impartially by public nomination and acknowledges significant public service. It’s my mission to seek out and nominate the unsung heroes in Bucks: those who do so much for others but never seek the limelight. There are amazing people out there and some remarkable stories to be told.
What has been your most memorable moment?
As someone in the business community I get a buzz from presenting the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. It’s a pleasure to tell the workforce of a company that they are doing a wonderful job. People on the shop floor are deeply touched to be acknowledged. One of the most memorable presentations I’ve done was the 2019 Queen’s Award to Niftylift in Milton Keynes. This presentation was for two awards: Innovation and International Trade. Chief Executive Roger Bowden asked me to present the Awards at the factory, so I was able to make my address to over 400 employees as well as the company management and local dignitaries. It was just before Christmas and I was able to give a merry and festive speech. The feed was beamed to all the Niftylift offices and agents across the world. Whether they understood all my Christmas jokes I can’t say.
How important is the office of the Lord-Lieutenant in promoting the role of our local Voluntary and Community Sector?
The prime task of the Lord-Lieutenant is to fulfil royal duties, to serve the Queen and uphold the honour and integrity of the Monarchy. There is little official guidance for Lieutenants about their community role but working with the voluntary sector is a big part of what we do. It’s an important part of the role: taking an interest and thanking people for their efforts has a strong morale-boosting effect. The interest, enthusiasm and support of the Lord-Lieutenant can also focus local minds towards particular charities. The support adds glamour and acceptability…..and sometimes the prospect of a royal visitor. This sort of thing opens additional networks for attracting people to the cause and, of course, for fundraising.
You were instrumental in setting up the ‘Buckinghamshire Lieutenancy Fund’ recently – how did you come up with this idea, and what impact do you hope it will have locally?
The pandemic spoilt all our plans for a celebratory farewell to Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, the former Lord-Lieutenant. Henry was adamant he didn’t want anyone to go out of their way to give him a send-off. We settled on a series of memorable gifts and I led a whip-round for the Lieutenancy and Shrievalty. The generosity of the donations was amazing and it was touching to experience the loyalty that Henry commanded. We raised far more than expected, so what better than to create a fund in memory of a great Lord-Lieutenant and the wonderful service he has given.
The Lieutenancy Fund was therefore set up to celebrate Henry’s service to Buckinghamshire. The idea is to provide access to charitable funds for future Lord-Lieutenants of Buckinghamshire, when they need instant funds for a particular cause or event. It’s not for personal expenses, mind. Examples might include the presentation ceremonies for BEM (British Empire Medal) recipients, or donations to local good causes. BEM ceremonies are conducted within the county on behalf of the Queen but sadly no public funds are provided for hospitality or transport. Thus in future the Lieutenancy Fund will be able to provide some modest assistance for recipients and their families when they attend a ceremony to receive their award. The actual cost isn’t that great but the money has to come from somewhere…and now it can come from the fund. Of course, once the fund has grown, there is also the exciting prospect of Lord-Lieutenants being able to make small, discreet donations to Bucks charities in the course of their work.
It’s wonderful that Heart of Bucks have agreed to take on the Lieutenancy Fund. I can’t think of a better place for it to be held…and of course the money is held as charitable funds within HoB.
What is your greatest hope for 2021 and beyond for Buckinghamshire?
Few people would argue that our main priority for 2021 and the foreseeable future is to win the battle against Covid-19. It’s going to be a much longer slog than many of us anticipated. My hope is that we can beat the virus and return to some form of normality. Come what may there will always be a need for leaders within our society, people we can trust and look up to. The office of the Lord-Lieutenant embodies wonderful principles: selfless unpaid service to the community, political impartiality and a force for good. The Monarchy and the Lieutenancy will remain entirely relevant and I have no doubt that they will survive come what may.
The Lieutenancy Fund will become an invaluable aid to the work of future Lord-Lieutenants within the county, enabling small grants to local charitable organisations and community groups. It will also create a lasting record of Sir Henry’s time in office. A donation to the fund is a fitting tribute to his outstanding contribution.