King Charles visits Gray’s Inn
Trip to legal London during South African president's state visit seen as demonstrating King's personal commitment to rule of law
King Charles visited Gray’s Inn this morning, where he met students, barristers and some of the masters of the bench who comprise the inn’s governing body — benchers for short.
His Majesty has been a royal bencher since 1975. The Queen is also an honorary bencher. A portrait of the then Prince of Wales by June Mendoza, completed in 1979, has pride of place in one of the benchers’ meeting rooms.
The timing of this visit is striking. Yesterday, the King and Queen greeted President Cyril Ramaphosa on his arrival in London. By choosing to spend time at the heart of legal London during the South African president’s state visit, the King is surely demonstrating his personal commitment to the rule of law. His other visits today were to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the Goldsmiths’ Centre.
Sir Peter Gross, who as treasurer is this year’s elected head of the inn, said today:
Today’s valued visit, reinforcing the connection between Gray’s Inn and our most senior royal bencher, is of the greatest significance for the inn’s diverse community together with its key values and activities in education and the rule of law, domestically and internationally including the Commonwealth.
The King was given a Gray’s Inn tie and joked that it was “the Inn thing”. He added: “Terribly helpful to have an extra one to choose from.”
Although this is the sixth time the King has been to Gray’s Inn, all his visits as Prince of Wales were made to formal events in the evening. His most recent previous visit was in 1993 and it is some 70 years since the last occasion on which Gray’s was visited by the sovereign.
The King also met Lady Justice Nicola Davies, who will be treasurer next year. And he found time to enjoy a stroll in the Walks, one of the largest private parks in central London after the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
Gray’s is one of the four historic societies that have educated and trained barristers in England and Wales for more than 600 years. It’s the first inn of court the King has visited since his accession. What he has never done on any previous visit to the inns is to meet children who are educated within the estate.
City Junior School moved to new premises at Gray’s Inn less than a month ago. The inn uses income generated from its commercial and residential lettings to support students and fund other its charitable activities.1
The King was accompanied by his deputy private secretary, the lawyer Dr John Sorabji.
You can watch video of the event in this tweet:
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I should declare an interest as an honorary bencher of Gray’s Inn and a resident.